Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie received the highest accolade in the sport of sailing with the presentation of the Rolex ISAF World Sailor of the Year to the World Champion 470 crew in a glittering dinner at Turtle Beach in the Sultanate of Oman, overnight NZT.
Winner of the Mens Award was Australian 470 sailor, and current World Champion, Matt Belcher. Both the New Zealand and Australia winners also won the Gold medal in their respective events.
Belcher sailing initially with the redoubtable Malcolm Page, through the 2012 Olympics, and then switching to Will Ryan after Weymouth, has won an incredible 17 consecutive regattas – and amazing achievement in consistency.
Aleh and Powrie can't match that feat, but have scored podium finishes in all their regattas this year. They should add the Sir Bernard Fergusson Trophy to their trophy cabinet at the end of November, when the New Zealand Sailor of the Year is announced, despite being up against the most titled field in the 50 year history of the event.
The Womens Olympic Gold medalist crew join an elite group of Sir Peter Blake, Sir Russell Coutts, and Mike Sanderson as previous recipients of the highest honour in sailing. However they are the first of the Kiwi group to be recognized for their achievements in Olympic sailing classes.
We carry the best coverage we can in this edition of Sail-World.com, including a photo gallery of their achievements this year, and other activities where they put back into the sport, to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
In this edition we also carry images, and a brief story on a sailing initiative by Wakatere Boating Club, designed to reduce the cost of boat ownership for new sailors and their sponsors/parents.
Those who have been involved in recruiting young sailors into the sport in a program basis, will know that it is largely a numbers game.
Take the kids aged around 9-11 who attend school around your club – typically there are about 600 that you can get into a program to give a sailing experience of around six sessions for which Waterwise is the ideal vehicle to deliver. Next step is to get just 10% of those to go on and do the next level of learn to sail at club level – that is 60 kids. If you can get half of those to come into a club membership you are pumping 30 new sailors into the club each year (along with their parents), and you are really getting some new blood into a club and the sport.
The difficulty has always been with the fact that many perceive the boats that are sailed at junior level to be boring, and their parents consider them to be expensive.
Our attitude has always been that a club should aim to provide an entry level boat that costs as much as a new or second hand bike. You can talk until you are blue in the face about how you recoup much of your investment in the asset that is Junior's new boat – but tell them that they can get afloat for a boat that costs the same as a bike and the arguments go away.
Wakatere's program built around the RS Feva, kills the argument that the boats are boring. With three sails, and looking hot, the Feva is a great entry option for kids – however the price is a killer for a first boat. Wakatere have got around that by buying a fleet of six that will get used for learn to sail, confidence, and can be chartered for six months for club racing, or used by adults for destination sailing.
Of course the program has parallels with others like it, such as the RNZYS's Lion Foundation Youth program – where again the cost of boat ownership is not an obstacle to being able to be coached and go racing in boats which have a bit of wick and are a challenge to sail.
Of course the two-handed boat provides a complete path through the two handed Youth and Olympic classes as well as the 12 and 18fter skiffs and many others, without having to endure the junior singlehanders – if that is not your style.
The queues of kids standing in the water waiting to have their turn on launch day for the RS Feva, signed off the success of this program.
On Tuesday evening we took up a long standing offer to go on the water with the Westhaven based Etchells fleet. Careful not to call them the Auckland fleet - as there are several around the City of Sails, and around New Zealand.
Class designer and builder, NZer Brian Bennett (standing) - Day 3, VX One Design - North American Championships, November 2013 VX One USA
The Etchells fleet have worked to get a good base going down by Z Pier in Westhaven, and seeing 15 Etchells all clustered around the launch Crane ready to go sailing was quite a sight.
On the water the invited group of sailors were an eclectic mix – class regulars, America's Cup regulars, Round the World sailors, Olympic representatives and those who had trodden the local, national and international regatta circuits. The racing was mix of fun and serious stuff. The form might have been a bit rusty, but the class of the sailors was unblemished by time and their relative unfamiliarity with the Etchells. However the racing was close – too close at times – with the starts being more a case of what your conscience would let you get away with, rather than compliance with the nuances of the rulebook.
We have an image gallery of the evening's races – play ceased eventually after appeals for bad light – and some of the shots aren't the sharpest, but it was a great evening's racing.
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