RSYS to challenge Youth America's Cup

1 July 2020 

A syndicate of Squadron Members has launched a challenge for the Youth America’s Cup which will take place in Auckland in 2021. Youth Members Otto Henry and Maddie O'Shea have been selected to lead our entry.

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), as part of its America’s Cup and 150 year anniversary celebrations, is hosting the Youth America’s Cup to coincide with the main event in Auckland in 2021.  Whilst exact dates and format for the event remain unconfirmed (given changes forced by COVID-19), the finals races are currently scheduled to overlap with the early stages of the America’s Cup finals in March.

In true NZ style, RNZYS has decided to run the event in unique boats - foiling monohulls (of course!)  Designed by the NZ America’s Cup team, they are essentially scaled down America’s Cup yachts with a (very busy) crew of two males and two females.  RNZYS has completed building the first (of six) of these boats and sailing trials commenced two weeks ago.  This event has generated global interest with RNZYS having so far received 15 entries from 12 countries.

To facilitate RSYS’s participation, a group of 10 Members have formed a syndicate to fund, select and manage the team for the event.  Managing the syndicate is Mark Johnson. The other Patrons are Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, Ivan Wheen, Greg O’Shea, David Griffith, John Winning, Matthew McCann, Rob Salteri, Ian Oatley and Rupert Henry.  Between the group they have 240 years of combined Squadron membership.

The syndicate’s aims are:
•    To have RSYS appropriately represented at a world class, high profile, Youth sailing event.
•    To assist some of our best junior sailors to gain experience in global competition.
•    To foster camaraderie amongst younger and older members of RSYS and between RSYS and other global yacht clubs - sailors, officials & flag officers.
•    To play hard but fair, while aiming for a result that will make our Members proud.

With the structure and funding already in place, RSYS, via Vice Commodore Christian Brook, formally issued RNZYS with a Notice of Challenge. Their Commodore, Ian Cook, has accepted this under Article 6.4 of the Protocol.  Formality aside, Commodore Cook commented, “We are delighted to accept a challenge from a club with which we have enjoyed a very long and friendly relationship.”

Racing will be on the AC9F Kōtare (credit andrewdelves)

“These unique foiling monohulls will offer challenges like nothing previously seen, with racing more closely resembling SailGP than anything we have associated with Match Racing,” commented Mark Johnson.

To skipper our Club’s entry, the syndicate has selected young RSYS Member Otto Henry who, from a very young age, has shown himself to be a talented sailor.  Most impressive has been his ability to compete at the highest level, at younger ages than his opposition.  A few highlights of Otto’s sailing bio:  

•    2014 – 1st Australian Opti Nationals - at 11 years of age, the youngest ever winner
•    2015 – 5th Polish Opti Worlds, against a prequalified fleet of 275 sailors, he became the highest ever placed Australian and by far the youngest serious competitor.  
•    2015 – 2nd NZ Opti Nationals
•    2016 – 1st Australian Opti Nationals
•    2017 – 1st Japanese 420 Championships
•    2017 – 1st French 420 Championships
•    2017 – 1st World Champion ISAF Youth Worlds, 420 (youngest ever winner, again)
•    2017 – 1st Australian 420 Championships
•    2018 – 6th Open 420 Worlds
•    2018 – 2nd ISAF Youth Worlds, 420
•    2018 – 1st Japanese 420 Championships
•    2018 – 1st Australian 420 Championships

By the middle of 2018 Otto was too heavy for 420s and so moved to Lasers where he competed against well-established elite program competitors.
•    2019 - 5th – Australian Radial Championship. Highest placing for a new Laser sailor
•    2019 - 3rd - Kiel Week Radials
•    2020 - 2nd Australian Youth Radial Championships
•    2020 – 1st Laser Metropolitan Championship  

Otto’s attention has now turned fully to foiling boats.

The other crew member already selected came through the Squadron Youth Program and is one of our best youth sailors: Maddie O’Shea. She is a two times Australian representative at the ISAF Youth Worlds and has competed in multiple overseas regattas. Maddie’s recent results include: 

Australian Youth Sailing Team 2018 & 2019
•    2017 Laser Radial Youth World Championships Medemblik Amsterdam 
•    2018 1st Female and 6th overall Japanese Youth Olympic Regatta 
•    2018 1st u19 Female at the Oceanic Laser Nationals 
•    2018 1st Youth Female Sail Melbourne 2018
•    2018 2nd Female at the Australian Youth Championships 
•    2018 12th World Sailing Youth Worlds Texas 
•    2018 1st Youth Female, 3rd Female and 7th overall at Sail Sydney 
•    2018 32nd Laser Radial Youth Worlds Kiel Germany
•    2018 RSYS Yachtswoman of the year 
•    2019 2nd Female Radial Australian Youth Nationals 
•    2019 2nd Place (overall) and 1st Place (Female) - NSW/ACT States (Laser/ILAC Radial Class)
•    2019 3rd Female Youth Laser Nationals 
•    2019 23rd Laser Radial European championships 
•    2019 3rd National Sailing League and 1st Youth Team
•    2019 Marinassess Women’s Match Racing Regatta (helms person) 5th.

Of late, Maddie has been match racing with her all female RSYS crew (credit Darcie Collington)

The challenges faced by this team in mounting a campaign in such a high-profile event are significant, particularly given the uniqueness of the boats.  It is early days, and while many questions remain, the Patrons are applying significant yachting and organizational experience to give the best chance to make this RSYS challenge successful.

“We look forward to providing Members with updates on our progress in the coming months,” concluded Johnson.

More information about the event and a video showcasing the new AC9F can be found on the RNZYS website here