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North Sails 2021 Innovation - LEADERBOARD

Live Ocean Racing: All-female Kiwi crew have good first hit-out in ETF26 at Spi Ouest 2022

by Richard Gladwell/ 21 Apr 06:22 PDT 22 April 2022
Live Ocean Racing in the first event of the 2022 ETF26 Grand Prix - Spi Ouest-France - April 2022 © David Ademas/Ouest - France

Live Ocean Racing finished fifth overall in their first event over the Easter weekend.

The new all-woman crew competed against seven other ETF26 teams in the 14 race Spi-Ouest regatta, sailed at La Trinité-sur-Mer, Brittany, France.

The team of Liv Mackay, Jo Aleh, Molly Meech, Alex Maloney and Erica Dawson achieved five podium places in the 14 race series. Liv Hobbs, who sails with Alex Maloney in the 49erFX, was also in La Trinité in a training and support role for the team.

It was the first-ever regatta for Live Ocean Racing, which was launched only two weeks before the start of the Spi-Ouest regatta.

Their performance improved as the regatta progressed and the breeze increased. Those results included scoring second place in Races 12 & 13 but blotted their copybook with a premature start in Race 11. They were third in the 14th and final race of the series.

A second all-woman team, Lady Team Pro, skippered by Mathilde Geron (FRA), who placed 4th in the 2012 Olympic Sailing regatta at Weymouth. The all-woman team was also sailing in their first ETF26 event, finishing eighth overall, and scoring one podium place.

"It was a very encouraging start for the team," reflected Live Ocean Racing co-founder Blair Tuke. "Not many of the team had sailed the ETF26 before. They came in late and improved as the regatta progressed. They will be looking to use this result as a good foundation for the remaining four regattas in the circuit."

"They seemed to be more comfortable as the wind increased in the back end of the regatta, and they got into foiling conditions. That's an area where they can keep improving and building their skillset. It was an awesome team effort."

The new team is coached by Jason Saunders, Nacra 17 Olympic representative at Rio 2016. "Jase did a very good job helping them prepare and get up to speed with the boat," Tuke said. "There's a good learning environment within the team."

Top teams sail 3-up

Live Ocean Racing competed against French, Danish and British teams in the regatta. The top teams all had strong competitive catamaran sailing experience in the Guillaume Verdier designed ETF26 or the Olympic and Youth Worlds catamaran classes.

Team Pro (FRA), helmed by Jean Christophe (FRA), won the ETF26 series at Spi Ouest. Mourniac is a former bronze and silver medalist at a world championship level in the then Olympic Tornado class. They won nine of the 14 races in the series, only twice finishing off the podium. Team Pro won the ETF26 circuit in 2019 and placed 4th overall at the 2020 and 2021 events.

Mark Rikse, NZ born, now British domiciled sailor and investment banker, placed second in the regatta. His Toroa Racing Team sailed with the Tokyo 2020 British Olympic Silver medalists John Gimson and Anna Burnet as crew.

Charles Dorange (FRA), a three-times World Youth Sailing Gold medalist in the SL16 and Nacra 15 catamarans, helmed the Youth Foiling Team to third overall at the ETF26 event.

The top three crews sailed three-up with heavier male crew members to stay within the class weight restriction.

Due to Olympic class regatta commitments, Tuke says the Live Ocean Racing team will also switch to a three-person crew for the second event at Carnac, France. SailGP sailors Leonard Takahashi and Marcus Hansen will join Liv Mackay aboard as four of the team will compete in the 49erFX and Nacra 17 classes at Semaine Olympique Française in Hyeres.

Tuke says there may be another ETF26 event that clashes with Olympic class events later in the year. "Live Ocean Racing wants to build out a wider pool of female athletes. Our medium and long-term objective is to keep creating opportunities and building back the depth of female sailors in New Zealand."

Tuke continued, "6-8 months ago, we first started looking at the potential options for campaigns to accelerate a pathway for women in sailing. We looked at boats which would be best to transfer skills and knowledge, and the ETF26 was the best available."

"It doesn't foil upwind, which might be one disadvantage," he explains. "But there are some murmurs that might change next season, which will be good."

"Apart from that, they are a very comparable boat to the F50. The courses are the same as the SailGP boats. So far, we are impressed with the platform the ETF26 provides."

Question answered

At the Live Ocean Racing launch, some questioned the standard of the racing in the ETF26 fleet compared to SailGP.

"French sailing is very strong, and they are arguably one of the strongest nations when it comes to catamaran sailing," was Tuke's response. "Team Pro was dominant, and they are a very experienced team. I think the competition is at a good level. We are definitely looking to push for the podium."

"The athletes in Live Ocean Racing are very competitive. They want to do their best and represent New Zealand and Live Ocean well."

Responding to a question about the list of "work-ons" for Live Ocean Racing after La Trinité, Tuke says that "it is their team and program. We're here to provide support and create this opportunity for them. It's theirs to take on and debrief this week. There has to be a quick turnaround, especially with the crew change late next week."

Tuke says the new team had a good introduction to the EFT26 racing, with lighter winds earlier in the week, facilitating "low-end foiling" only and then increasing to a top-end of about 15kts later in the week.

"The ETF26 platform offers an opportunity to broaden skillsets on foilers, which will help accelerate the pathway towards professional sailing events such as SailGP.

"Live Ocean Racing has been a few years in the making, and it is an incredibly proud moment to see it being led out with the ETF26 program."

Tuke says the reaction to the new racing team has been very positive. "Right from when we launched Live Ocean, we wanted to use our platform in sport and sailing to champion action for the ocean. This felt like the right time and place to launch Live Ocean Racing."

Just a start for women's sailing

Looking at the bigger picture, Tuke says that the Women's SailGP program has already started and is expected to grow. "If there were a parallel women's league or similar in SailGP, then this group would be at the core of that from the NZ SailGP side."

"We need to very much widen this group - it is only just a start," he added.

"Live Ocean Racing will work with Yachting New Zealand, the New ZealandSailGP team, Emirates Team New Zealand and others to help accelerate the pathway for women into professional sailing."

Tuke says the Women's America's Cup is early in the planning phase. "It was awesome to see the 2024 Women's America's Cup event announced."

"The women in the Live Ocean Racing team are among the best in New Zealand, and it will be exciting to see them hopefully grow into opportunities in SailGP and the America's Cup."

Tuke says he expects the ETF26 circuit to grow by maybe a couple of boats and says that the foiling catamaran is about the biggest that can be managed off the beach. Once launched, the boats remain on moorings for the rest of the regatta.

There are two more ETF26 events in France in late April and early June before the five regatta circuit heads for Lake Garda, Italy and Foiling Week on June 30. Then it is back to La Rochelle, France, for the final event, in late September.

"The team have shown over the weekend that they are definitely in the mix. Those five podium places show that when they sail well, they can be right up there, so it is a very encouraging start," Tuke reflected.

"La Trinité was a quick turnaround for the team. It was their first time travelling for a while, and most came straight from New Zealand. Liv came straight from the SailGP event in San Francisco. So to prepare the boat, get on the start line and race the way they did was awesome. We're incredibly proud of the team."

Tuke says the plan is for the SailGP Women's Pathway athletes to continue to grow their onboard responsibilities.

"When we sail with Liv on the F50/SailGP, she's pretty involved. She drives the boat out of all the manoeuvres and helps with some boat on boat tactics as well. She's doing an awesome job."

After their first regatta, Live Ocean Racing looks to have a very positive future.

"This is the team's first project, and we want to do it well," Tuke said. "We are excited to follow the team as they race for New Zealand, taking on this awesome challenge while championing action for the ocean."

About the ETF26 Grand Prix

You can follow the action on the ETF26 Grand Prix on @itsliveocean

The ETF26 Series is back for a fifth edition running from April to July:

  • Spi Ouest-France / April 14th-18th 2022 / La Trinité sur mer (France)
  • Eurocat / April 28th - May 1st 2022 / Carnac (France)
  • Raid Quiberon / June 2nd-5th 2022 / Quiberon (France)
  • Foiling Week / June 30th - July 3rd 2022 / Garda Lake (Italy)
  • Grand Prix du Grand Pavois / Sept. 29th- Oct. 2n 2022 / La Rochelle (France)

About Live Ocean Racing

Live Ocean Racing is a New Zealand racing team committed to action for the ocean. Established by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, Live Ocean Racing will bring together a talented and diverse team to compete at the highest level. With innovation and purpose baked into our DNA, we race on and for the ocean.

  • Live Ocean Racing is led by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke however, they are not part of the sailing team for the ETF26 Grand Prix. They are fully committed to SailGP and Emirates Team New Zealand.
  • Live Ocean Racing is a separate entity to Live Ocean Foundation with its own governance, board, management and funding. However, they share brand and purpose.
  • No funding from Live Ocean Foundation goes towards Live Ocean Racing. The foundation will continue to audit annually and deliver a high level of transparency around donor funds.
  • Live Ocean Foundation is the Race for the Future charity partner for the New Zealand SailGP Team.

About Live Ocean Foundation

Live Ocean is a marine conservation foundation committed to scaling up action for the ocean. Founded by sailors and ocean champions, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, the foundation scales up marine science, innovation and outreach to connect and ignite people around the role a healthy ocean plays in a healthy future. We partner with exceptional New Zealand marine scientists, innovators and communicators whose work has global implications for the protection of the ocean and the life in it. To have a healthy future, we must have a healthy ocean.

Current projects undertaken by the Live Ocean Foundation include:

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