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An interview with Laurie Jury about the RNZYS’ 2018 International Foiling Camp

by David Schmidt 27 Dec 2018 08:00 PST January 7-18, 2019
Students learn the high-speed, high-stakes nuances of next-generatioon sailing under the watchful eye of the RNZYS's International Foiling Camp © Image courtesy of the International Foiling Camp/RNZYS

At the risk of betraying my age (42), my junior-sailing days were spent aboard boats like Optis, Bluejays, Lasers and 420s, as well as local keelboats, not aboard today’s different classes of foiling boats that, to be perfectly frank, make the dinghies of my youth look downright tame by comparison. And while there’s no denying the kind of big-grin fun that a Laser can deliver to a fit 18 year old in 20 knots and a good seaway, there’s also no denying that an equally fit 18 year old in a foiling Moth would be having even more fun while likely going several times faster than the Laser sailor. That said, keeping a boat balanced on her foils isn’t easy, especially for anyone who grew up when displacement mode was the only kind of sailing.

While I first saw Rohan Veal demonstrating his world-class Moth foiling skills at the 2006 United States Sailboat Show at Annapolis, it wasn’t until the 2009 Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Boston that I got a real sense of how hard it is to get up onto foils. Granted, these were early days for foiling, before there was a lot of collective knowledge, but I will never forget seeing 2008 Olympic Gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe and her former husband, Brad Funk (also an Olympic-level Laser sailor), struggle to light-up their Moths as VOR visitors looked at the tiny rocketships with a never-seen-this-before curiosity.

Granted, Boston Harbor is a miserable patch of brine to sail, replete with massive downdrafts from commercial jet planes entering and exiting nearby Logan Airport, as well as plenty of commercial and recreational traffic, funky winds and fairly tight navigable space, but to see two sailors of this international caliber struggle to get aloft and stay there was a pretty good indication that the step from a Laser to a Moth represents significantly more vertical relief than transitioning from an Opti to a 420.

Flash forward a decade, and the crowds have lost their never-seen-this-before curiosity thanks to the last two America’s Cups, and now even Olympic and offshore sailors are getting into the foiling mix. While this is great news for advancing high-performance sailing’s arch, it begs an important question: How can interested sailors best learn the tricks of the foiling trade?

One interesting solution is the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s International Foiling Camp (January 7-18, 2019), which will take place in New Zealand and aims to help talented sailors to quickly develop the kinds of skills that 21st century racecourses are increasingly demanding.

I checked in with Laurie Jury, who serves as the RNZYS’ sailing director, via email, to find out more about the International Foiling Camp and the opportunities it provides for sailors looking to transition from displacement-mode sailing to the high-speed joys of foiling.

What was the impetus for the foiling camp? Also, when did it begin and has it always been New Zealand-based?

The impetus was to give more sailors an introduction into foiling, with a high-level of coaching and month-long intensive course it is a great opportunity to become very proficient in a short amount of time, last year was our first camp, always NZ based. Two weeks are spent at Kawau Island and two weeks at the RNZYS in downtown Auckland.

What age sailors is the camp appropriate for? Also, how much foiling experience is necessary beforehand? Or, is the camp an opportunity for non-foiling sailors to take flight for the first time?

There is no age limit, the international sailors we look for 18 years plus. Last year, the age range was from 16- late 20s.

It’s more important that the skill levels are similar so everyone can get the most out of the camp, no foiling experience is necessary, [and it’s] absolutely an opportunity for sailors to take flight for the first time.

What kind of equipment will you have available for the sailors to use?

We use the RNZYS two Nacra 20 carbon full foiling catamarans, which were actually the Team NZ training boats for the 2017 America’s Cup.

Is the goal of the camp to help groom the next batch of SailGP/America’s Cup sailors, or it it aimed more at Olympic hopefuls, Mothies or is this more about broadening horizons than it is about accomplishing a specific goal?

A bit of everything, for some of the sailors it [is] an opportunity to try foiling in the Nacra before committing to a Olympic Campaign in the Nacra 17s, definitely a good opportunity for anyone thinking about the Sail GP/Americas Cup as a future goal. [It’s] also a great way to make some contacts and talk to some professional sailors about your future sailing.

You mentioned that you are moving to a one-week format this year—can you tell us about this change, what drove it, and how this will affect the pace/tempo of the camp?

For the course to work it is really important to have a solid group of sailors at a similar level. Last year we had 20 applications for 10 spots, this year we haven’t had enough applications that can commit to a whole month, [and] we need to be very confident in the skill levels of the sailors as the boats are pretty tough to sail and we can't just put anybody in the camp.

So we are changing the format to a weeklong intensive training camp followed by a match-racing regatta in the Nacra 20s.

Where are most of your sailors coming from? Australia and New Zealand primarily, or is this fully international? Also, are there any reoccurring traits that you are seeing in the kinds of sailors who show up, or it is a mixed-bag of ambition and drive?

Last year [there were] seven Australians and three New Zealanders, [and] we would love to see more international sailors come down for the camp.

The sailors were a mix of dinghy sailors (49er, A-class, kiteboards, 470) and keel boat/match racers looking to get into foiling.

Can you tell us about any steps that you and the other organizers are taking this year to reduce the event’s environmental footprint?

The RNZYS has a pretty robust environmental program with reducing single-use plastic and using recyclable materials, [and] we have seen this really ramp-up in the last year. The foiling camp will follow this program with all the catering done in house.

Anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

If anyone is interested in coming to NZ for the camp, the new dates are [a] weeklong course from the 7th- [to the] 11th of January, followed by a Match Racing regatta in the Nacra 20s from the 15th to the 18th of January, 2019. Please contact me ljury@rnzys.org.nz

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