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Sutter and Versavel win Nacra 15 Youth Worlds Qualifier at St. Francis Yacht Club

by Amanda Witherell 24 Mar 19:02 PDT 22-24 March 2019
2019 Nacra 15 Youth World Qualifier © Chris Ray

Jack Sutter and Charlotte Versavel bested the fleet of seven competitors to win the second and final stage of the Nacra 15 Youth World Qualifier at St. Francis Yacht Club, March 22-24, 2019.

The second of two qualifying events, the Sutter/Versavel team, sailing under the StFYC burgee, will be nominated by US Sailing to represent the United States at the 2019 Hempel Youth Sailing World Championships in Gdynia, Poland, July 13-20, 2019.

After the first qualifier, held at Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans, Louisiana, Sutter and Versavel had a slim, one-point margin over the Sarasota, Florida, team of J.J. Smith and Will Murray (Sarasota Youth Sailing/St. Petersburg Yacht Club). Sutter and Versavel maintained their lead to finish five points ahead of Smith and Murray after two days of racing in a variety of conditions on San Francisco Bay.

The first day of racing saw light southerly wind and rain, sometimes heavy, making for a challenging day on the water. "We had to throw out our first race," Sutter recounted, though they managed to subsequently score two bullets. "But we were nervous going into the second day. When we saw the forecast, we were super excited." West winds, 15-20 knots classic Bay racing conditions.

While the weather delivered champagne racing conditions, a different sort of challenge soon arose for the team. "As we were about to finish our first race of the day, Jack said, 'We have a problem, but we're going to finish,'" recalled Versavel. They dropped the chute, crossed the finish line in first and assessed the situation: the rudder casing had come free of the steering rod. Coach Adam Corpuz-Lahne was soon on the scene with bungees, duct tape and Spectra line to lash the boat parts back together. The fix held long enough for them to sail three more races, winning two of them, in increasing wind conditions.

"I couldn't be more proud of the team," said StFYC's Junior Coach Adam Corpuz-Lahne. "It wasn't an easy road. New Orleans was their first major Nacra 15 regatta win and they got here through hard work and dedication." Sutter and Versavel, 17 and 16 years old respectively, have been sailing together for less than two years, honing their skills and competitive spirits. In spite of attending different high schools and living two hours apart at opposite ends of the Bay Area, they commit to practicing as many days as they can. "We trained for this every day that we could," said Sutter.

The Nacra 15 is a miniature version of the Olympic Nacra 17 and has become a pathway towards the Olympics for junior sailors. "This class is making great progress and establishing itself as a powerhouse. Kids love speed and sailing as mixed teams is a success that we took away from the Rio Olympics," said Malcolm Page, US Sailing's Chief of Olympic Sailing.

"From a class perspective, everyone is working together in North America's three centers of Nacra 15 sailing and that's why they're making great progress," said Page. "They're bringing the boats together, they're coaching together and creating critical mass. Catamaran sailing has been growing in popularity When you look at SailGP, which will be here in May, it's not too dissimilar."

Though three days of racing were scheduled, the final day was cancelled due to light wind from a northerly direction, making the necessary mile-long race course untenable with the Bay current. A total of eight races were completed, and run in conjunction with StFYC's annual Spring Dinghy Regatta.

Full results available here.

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