Sailors competing in the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup were given a special hello from the three America’s Cup teams practicing in the Great Sound on Wednesday.
After the first day of racing which saw winds increase to around 18 knots by the fourth and final race, Bermudian Ahzai Smith, 12, said he and the other Optimist sailors were treated to an up-close and personal look at the flying AC45’s of teams Softbank Team Japan, Artemis, and Oracle Team USA. “It was cool. We got to go really close to them and give them high fives,” said Smith, who finished the day in 9th place as the top Bermudian sailor. Salt caked across his face, the water-weary Smith was excited to get a good look at the boats he some day hopes to be competing in."I'm gonna try for the Bermuda Red Bull Youth team,” he said, avoiding any declarations of surety. “I’m gonna try. It’s going to be tough competition."
While the competition for Bermuda’s premier youth sailing team will be undoubtedly difficult, Smith will be in good stead after racing alongside some of the world’s top sailing talent in the Junior Gold Cup this year.“It trains us to get better when we go overseas, to race them in their countries,” he added.
The Junior Gold Cup has always emphasized the importance of including girls in the regatta, and today showed just why that is. Sailing is just one of the two sports in which women compete equally with men in competition, and 13-year- old Mia Nicolosi gave proof to that parity, finishing atop the leaderboard at the end of the day’s racing."I liked it a lot at the beginning when it was kind of light,” said Nicolosi, who arrived in Bermuda earlier this week from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. “It got really windy though towards the end of the day. It felt like 20 knots.”As one of the top female talents in youth sailing today, Nicolosi will be opting out of her final year in the Optimist in order to gain experience sailing 29ers and NACRAs. Although unaware she was in first place after the day’s racing, Nicolosi wasn’t exactly impressed with her finishes of first, second, third and fourth. “I could always do better,” she said.
A first-timer when it comes to sailing in Bermuda, 14-year- old Marius Westerlind from finished the day in third."The conditions for the first three races was really good because we had, I dunno, 14 knots maybe, but the last race it went up to like 20 knots and that's not really my wind,” said the Swede. “It's hard to get in a good position in heavy wind because I'm a bit lighter than the other sailors.”Like many of the kids visiting the island, Westerlind will be taking full advantage of the warmer climate while he can. It's really nice because it's warm here compared to where I'm from. I'm making some new friends, but most of them I already know from before. It's really cool being here with them."I'm going diving in about half an hour, I've been wake-boarding, and then I think I'm going cliff jumping, and then maybe to the beach."
Sailing continues tomorrow with 4 more races scheduled. For further information and full results follow us on Facebook or the website www.juniorgoldcup.com
Wednesday October 26th marks the start of the 14th annual RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup held each year at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
The regatta — which normally coincides with the World Match Racing Tour, formally the Argo Group Gold Cup — represents an opportunity for Bermuda’s top sailing talent to test their mettle against some of the best sailors from around the world.
A total of 43 sailors between the ages of 11 and 15 will be competing in 16 races over the course of four days in the Great Sound. Out of those 43 sailors, 16 have arrived in Bermuda from 15 different countries, and all will be staying with local host families for the duration. Sailors hail from Antigua, Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, United States and the US Virgin Islands.
“The essence and the spirit of the regatta, while competitive, emphasizes the Corinthian, fair play aspect of sailing. It’s about sailing and friendship, competition and having fun,” said Dede Cooper, Regatta Chairperson, her 9th year as part of the organizing authority.
The regatta has historically had a high level of competition and this year will be no different. All eyes will be on Mathias Berthet from Norway. After placing 3rd in last year’s Junior Gold Cup, he went on to win the Lake Garda Meeting in Riva Del Garda, Italy and finished 2nd in the Opti World Championship this summer in Portugal. Not to be overlooked is Roko Mohr from Germany, who placed 7th in the Worlds and Tom Higgins of Ireland who won the Irish National Championships and placed 1st in the UK National Championships as well.
On the female side and back again after placing 2nd in the last Junior Gold Cup is Mia Nicolosi of the US Virgin Islands, who was 4th overall and the Female North American Champion this past summer in Antigua. “It is exciting to see that 25% of the fleet is female, including five girls coming from overseas,” added Cooper.
Bermudians to watch are Micah Thomas Raynor who was top Bermudian at the 2015 Junior Gold Cup and placed 27th in the North American Championships and Jordan Etemadi who had a very good 2016 placing as the top Bermuda sailor at the Optimist World and South American Championships.
Thanks to Renaissance Re’s sponsorship, the Optimist sailors are invited as guests to Bermuda with a large portion of their expenses covered. Since only one sailor per country is invited (bar Bermuda), the sailors branch out and are able to make friends from other countries.
“We are proud to be the title sponsor of the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup, now in our 14th year,” said Kevin O’Donnell, President and CEO of Renaissance Re.
“This event is all about sportsmanship, skill, striving for excellence, and passion – qualities we value as an organization and want to foster amongst young people. With the America’s Cup, Bermuda’s reputation as a world-class sailing destination has never been stronger and we’re pleased so many athletes and visitors are experiencing the best of our Island, which RenaissanceRe has called home for over 20 years.”