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Yachting NZ announce world champions in Aon Fast Track squad

by Yachting New Zealand 20 Feb 03:47 PST 21 February 2019
Josh Armit (NZL) (Laser) - Youth Sailing World Championships, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA. July 14-21, 2018 © Jen Edney / World Sailing

Past and present world champions and medallists abound in the latest Aon Fast Track squad.

The nine members of this year's Aon's Fast Track squad were announced at a function today at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and all have tasted success on the world stage.

There are some returning members, including 49er sailors Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie (2019 Red Bull Foiling Generation world champions) and Laser sailor George Gautrey (2015 youth worlds silver medallist) but also a host of newcomers.

These include Laser sailor Josh Armit (2018 youth worlds gold medallist), RS:X sailor Veerle ten Have (2018 youth worlds silver medallist), 49erFX sailors Crystal Sun and Olivia Hobbs (2018 29er world champions), and new 49er combination Jackson Keon (2018 29er world champion) and Scott McKenzie (2018 youth worlds silver medallist).

Some still have aspirations of competing at next year's Tokyo Olympics but, for most, the goal is the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Aon Fast Track programme aims to accelerate the the standard of the most talented youth sailors from top international youth sailors to successful Olympic campaigners.

"It's so critical to have this support at this level," Yachting New Zealand talent development manager Geoff Woolley said. "Historically, it has been the hardest jump for many of our young sailors, from the youth ranks to successful Olympic campaingers, but the Aon Fast Track programme has seen a number of sailors make the step up, including Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn. We can't thank Aon enough for the support they have given us."

Dunning Beck and Gunn were members of last year's Aon Fast Track programme but this year made the jump into the NZL Sailing Team after their seventh-placed finish in the 49er at last year's sailing world championships.

McHardie, William McKenzie and Gautrey are the 'veterans' of the Aon Fast Track squad and all have shown good improvement over the last 12 months.

McHardie and McKenzie are knocking on the door of the NZL Sailing Team, and were 17th at last year's world championships, and Gautrey has narrowly missed out on the medal race at two World Cup regattas.

The rest of the Aon Fast Track squad will look to make an impression at international events this year after graduating from the youth classes.

"It's pretty exciting to have a bunch of new Olympic campaigners throwing themselves into it," Woolley said. "They have all tasted success at youth level so we're really hopeful they will kick on ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics."

Woolley was particularly buoyed by the inclusion of ten Have, especially given the paucity of success in windsurfing in recent times.

"It's super-exciting to have a windsurfer with Veerle's potential in New Zealand who is now campaigning for the Olympics," he said. "She will compete at a number of international events this year and there's also an opportunity with the 2020 RS:X world championships being held in New Zealand.

"Josh is also a pretty impressive talent. You forget how young he is at times and he's already made a good start to his career in the Olympic classes, having made the gold fleet at the recent World Cup in Miami and recording two top-three finishes in races. He's a pretty focused individual who is working in well with the Olympic Laser squad and is hungry for more racing after finishing third at the recent OK Dinghy world championships."

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