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Top NZer reflects on the ISAF Youth Worlds - the Road to Zadar

by Tomer Simhony on 20 Jul 2011
NZL off to a good start - Multihull - Race Day 2 - 2011 ISAF Youth Worlds, Zadar, Croatia Sime Sokota/ISAF Youth Worlds

Top finisher in the NZL International Yachting Trust Youth team, Tomer Simhony reflects on competing in the ISAF Youth World Championships held in Zadar, Croatia in the SL 16 class together with crew, Ellie Copeland as part of the Yachting New Zealand Trust Youth Team.

He reports:

After an emotionally draining regatta in the heat of the Mediterranean summer, Ellie and I finished in 5th place, which is an encouraging debut of our catamaran careers.

The sailing conditions were very difficult for the catamaran fleet with the course area presenting better breeze on one side while a consistent strong shift was present on the other, which when coupled with light to moderate wind, created big splits in the small fleet as each team drag-raced to their chosen side. Ellie and I started the competition in great form, and led after the first day.


However, superb sailing from teams such as Brazil and Denmark and a late comeback from Great Britain and Belgium eventually left us in 5th place. Our biggest faults were starting consistently in the bunch and lacking technique and weight to hold our lane in when dual trapezing (14kn +). Despite our downward fall throughout the regatta, Ellie and I are both still happy at this promising result especially considering it came in our first Youth Worlds, after only 6 months of sailing together and remarkably it was only our second ever catamaran competition of any kind.

Participation in the Youth Worlds required qualifying through attaining first youth boat in the Hobie nationals, sailed out of Takapuna. Our Hobie preparation was aided greatly by several part-time coaches such as previous owners, Alex Munro and Luke Stevenson; and also James Turner and Ben Goodwin who together laid the foundation of our catamaran experience. I wish to take a moment to acknowledge the huge logistical support and time put in by Andrew and Louise Copeland while trying to shuffle between the availability of coaches and the unlimited love and support from my own parents as well, who called me every single morning of the regatta with no judgement and only support and who without I would be nowhere. Winning the youth spot was a promising start to our campaign, however it was only the beginning of our journey; from then, with help from the Youth Team Leader, Ian Neely and catamaran coach James Sandal a rigorous training program was devised for the next 4 months.


From the beginning, we were presented with a rather serious issue. There is not one SL 16 in Australasia, and barring two or three in Brazil, I believe the whole southern hemisphere. The greatest issue was trying to find a boat with a modern, high aspect main, with also a gennaker for Ellie to learn with to try and prepare ourselves to what we would be sailing with at the Youth Worlds. This is where one of our biggest benefactors came into the picture. Matt Flynn, commodore of the New Zealand Multihull Yacht Club, allowed Ellie and I, two inexperienced teenagers, to sail his own F-18, free of charge in order to train for the Youth Worlds. Matt Flynn?s generosity in giving us such an overpowered, high performance catamaran to pitch pole to our hearts? content made a huge impact on our learning curve and, together with input from coaches James Sandal, Brett Sellers and Ian Neely, our boat handling improved to no ends.

The last, yet still big, problem we had was the fact that Ellie and I would have zero experience in the SL 16 before the regatta, a prospect none of us fancied. After thinking on the matter, Ian found a 4 day training camp which was held by the manufacturers; Sirena, in France, a week before the regatta began.

This training camp provided invaluable time in the boat and helped us form friends and training partners from fellow competitors as well as the manufacturers. This camp, and the kindness that was shown to us was one of the highlights of my trip and I believe a crucial part of our subsequent success. Particular names I wish to mention and thank are JC, Gastion, Henry and Vincent Gueho and Yves Loday who helped us adjust to the boat very rapidly and were tremendously kind to us in all aspects of our time in France.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I would like to thank Shelley Hesson, a coach that has accompanied me through Optimist to 420, and now through my catamaran campaign. Shelley provided support, insightful coaching and encouragement throughout both France and Croatia which helped us tremendously.
The Youth Worlds presented me with a phenomenal wealth of knowledge, experience and good memories. However, our success in this on-the-mountain month could not and would not have been achieved without tremendous support from a lot of people.


First of all, the major financial backers of the Youth Team: The Yachting New Zealand Trust, SPARC and Oceanbridge, who without, this almost fully funded trip could not have been possible. Our principal coaches in New Zealand: Luke Stevenson, James Sandal, Brett Sellers and Ian Neely as well as Matt Flynn without whom, our learning of three distinctly different catamarans would have been greatly diminished. Our Youth Team coaches: Shelley Hesson, Jim Maloney and Ian Neely who, apart from looking after 12 rowdy kids, transformed our relayed feel of the boat down to simple solutions in settings and sailing technique while also helping with sail trim and batten set-up on shore.

My sailing background is quite typical of the New Zealand scene. I began sailing at the age of 8 in the Learn To Sail program of Murray's Bay Sailing Club. From then I moved through the Optimist class, competing internationally in New Caledonia and Mexico; the P Class and Starling which served as stepping stones before my next largest boat, the 420. Sailing and learning together with childhood best friend Brad Moss, the 420 taught me everything about sailing a double handed boat, mast and sail set up , and the invaluable lessons of team work.

Brad and I saw success national success through winning such competitions as the Sir Peter Blake Memorial Regatta and Sail Auckland, and travelled together to the 420 worlds in Israel. My subsequent move onto sailing catamarans was the result of scarcity of crews in 420, and inspiration and admiration resulting in the 33rd America's Cup. The sheer adrenalin of flying a hull, pitch-poling and even training with the AC 45's present in Auckland harbour create such strong hooks to me that I don't foresee myself giving up catamarans any time soon.

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