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Andre hopes to be giant among eSailors

by Yachting New Zealand 29 May 19:13 PDT
Mason Mulcahy/Andre Van Dam (NZL) move up the leaderboard on day 2 - 2019 420 World Championship © Osga - João Ferreira

Most pre-regatta checks don't normally include investigating the WiFi but that will be top of the list for Andre Van Dam ahead of Sunday's final of the Zhik New Zealand eSailing Challenge.

The 18-year-old finished second in the central region finals to take his place among the 12 eSailors who will battle it out in Sunday night's final, which will be live streamed on the Yachting New Zealand Facebook page from 7pm.

Van Dam normally has a pretty reliable internet connection but will be in Kerikeri this weekend for the New Zealand Open Team Sailing National Championships.

"I don’t know what I will be doing with that," he said. "I might have to use all my mobile data or use the free WiFi at McDonald’s."

It's a pretty crucial element because sailors can, and do, drop out of racing and there's no recourse if they do. They will all get one drop in the five-race series.

Van Dam has been eSailing since the Virtual Regatta game came out a couple of years ago and enjoys taking on his friends in private races. He's also dabbled in some of the World Sailing regattas but the competitive element of it stepped up a notch with the creation of the Zhik New Zealand eSailing Challenge.

The winner will collect a $500 Zhik voucher as well as a $500 Zhik voucher for their club and, as much as Van Dam would like to win that for himself and the Evans Bay Yacht & Motor Boat Club, he has his eyes on another goal.

"I was pretty excited to do it because I thought I would have an OK chance of getting through to the New Zealand finals," he said. "I wanted to do it for the racing and thought it would be cool to try to take on the Australians. I know they have some very good virtual sailors so I’d like to race against them."

The top six in Sunday's final will make up a New Zealand team to take on the top six from the competition run by Australian Sailing.

Van Dam certainly has plenty of international experience in his normal sailing and, together with Mason Mulcahy, is among the world's best 420 combinations.

The pair were eighth at last year's 420 world championships and had their sights on being selected for the NZL Sailing Foundation Youth Team to compete at this year's youth sailing world championships in Brazil. That event was called off recently due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Van Dam recently relocated from Wellington to Auckland so he can train more often, and easily, with Mulcahy and open the door to more opportunities in the sport.

"[With me being in Wellington] it meant we are a lot more focused when we got together," he explained. "We tried to do as much as we could with the time we had.

"But I wanted to get up here and get involved in the scene. I want to be a part of different projects and teams because before I felt like I missed out on a few things [in Wellington]."

Location is no barrier in eSailing, as long as the WiFi is good enough, and it's seen in the spread of finalists in the Zhik New Zealand eSailing Challenge with competitors from the likes of Lake Mahinapua, Queenstown, Nelson, Porirua, Tauranga and Auckland. And for this weekend, at least, Kerikeri.

Finalists in the Zhik New Zealand eSailing Challenge:

South Island: Aidan Gordon (Wakatipu Yacht Club), Andrew Colfelt (Lake Mahinapua Aquatic Club), Martin Langelaan (Tasman Bay Cruising Club)

Central Region: Ryan Tait (Paremata Boating Club), Andre Van Dam (Evans Bay Yacht & Motor Boat Club), James Bichener (Plimmerton Boating Club)

Northern Region (south): Tom Pilkington (Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron), Jack Frewin (Howick Sailing Club), Emil Rooseboom (Tauranga Yacht & Power Boat Club)

Northern Region (north): Seb Menzies (Murrays Bay Sailing Club), Brayden Hamilton (Wakatere Boating Club), Chris Salmon (Pupuke Boating Club)

Pic: Andre Van Dam (crew) and Mason Mulcahy (helm) were eighth at last year's 420 world championships. Photo: Yachting New Zealand.

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