Sailing: Teens facing the ultimate test

By Peter White


The chance to test themselves against the very best young sailors in the world is an opportunity Sam Barnett and Zak Merton are eagerly looking forward to.

The two 16-year-olds from the Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club have been selected in the NZL Yachting Trust Youth Team to compete at the prestigious ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships to be held in Cyprus from July 13-20.

They will then travel to Valencia, Spain, to compete in the Open Men's 420 World Championship.

Tauranga Boys' College student Sam Barnett (Boys 420 helm) and Zak Merton (Boys 420 crew) from Otumoetai College, have sailed together in the 420 class for a year and are part of a nine-strong New Zealand team which is expected to do well in Cyprus.

Merton has been sailing since he was 10-years-old and has the more spectacular role on the boat, strapped to a harness hanging over the side controlling the two front sails.

He is not too sure what to expect in Cyprus but believes conditions will be similar to what they are used to on Tauranga Harbour.

"It is meant to be a consistent 8-13 knots but there is 30 per cent chance of 18 knots plus and it will be really hot when we are over there," Merton said.

"It is going to be great. My ultimate goal is to be at the Olympics one day and from there maybe the America's Cup."

Barnett, who steers the boat and controls the mainsail, has made rapid progress in sailing since he started just three years ago.

"We have a two-year plan together. We want to do well at this year's youth worlds and want to do even better next year so we are building all the time," Barnett said.

"In Cyprus we don't really know what the quality of the fleet will be like so we are thinking of process goals at the moment, in terms of making sure we do techniques right and the processes are good."

The two Tauranga sailors are spending the school holidays training in Auckland with their coaches Jim Maloney and Ed Smyth to ensure they are ready to take on the world's best young sailors in July.

Ian Neely, Yachting New Zealand's Talent Development Manager, is excited about the team's prospects in Cyprus.

"To be selected for the NZL Yachting Trust Youth Team is tough," said Neely.

"These sailors have worked hard to earn this honour."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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