Yachting: Red Bull foiling competition searches for top youngsters

Double Olympic champions Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher are searching for the sailing stars of the future.

A global talent search that puts the next generation of sailors on next generation sailboats, Red Bull Foiling Generation has it all: passionate young athletes, Gold medal mentors, spectacular settings and 'foils' that makes the watercrafts feel like an aeroplane. The new series hits Auckland shores for the first stop of 2016 at Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Westhaven Marina on March 3-6.

The series gives wings to 16 ambitious two-person sailing teams aged between16-20, introducing them to the cutting-edge foiling technology used in the America's Cup. Foiling Generation gives the sharpest youth sailors the opportunity to compete in the "new way of sailing," with a new class of multi-hull boats called the Flying Phantom.

"We are offering outstanding young sailors a unique career path starting on foiling catamarans in Red Bull Foiling Generation, the Red Bull Youth America's Cup and the Red Bull Sailing Team competing in the Extreme Sailing Series," Steinacher adds.

The Flying Phantom has unique sailing qualities: even light winds of just seven knots are enough to lift the hulls completely out of the water, with the J-shaped foil keeping contact for minimum drag and maximum speed.

In this suspended position called hydro-foiling, the vessel skims over the surface in full spectacular flight, and top sailors can reach blistering speeds of up to 35 knots (almost 65kmh) - making it the quickest sailing boat of its size in the world.

"It really is like flying," adds Steinacher, who should know, given that he's also a pilot. "You have to always think about your foil in the water and not only about your trim in the sails, so it's completely new."

The 18-foot catamarans will give competitors a good indication of what it is like to compete in a full-sized America's Cup boat. The vessels and the necessary infrastructure are fully provided, enabling participants to focus on learning and growing their skills. Discover more about the Flying Phantom here.

In 2015, seven national champions were crowned in Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and France. This season, eight more teams will claim national podiums in New Zealand, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and the United States. The 15 national winners will then be invited to compete in the inaugural World Final of the Red Bull Foiling Generation at Newport, Rhode Island, USA in October 2016.

Hailed as the future of sailing, this novel event concept is the only race of its kind. Red Bull Foiling Generation ushers in a new sailing knockout format with four-boat heats from the start of every race. The top two teams automatically advance to the next round, while the other two teams get another shot at qualifying in a lucky loser round. Sports Directors Hagara and Steinacher explain the race format here.

The best 32 sailors have been chosen for the New Zealand national regatta, based on race results in existing boat classes. 49er FX racers and Olympic hopefuls Molly Meech and Alex Maloney recently returned with Gold from the ISAF World Cup, and although they are slightly above the age bracket to compete in Foiling Generation, say the event is a great platform for kiwi youth to show their skills to a national and international audience.

"There are some great sailors competing from New Zealand; it should be great close racing to the end." Says Maloney. "We have never sailed a Flying Phantom ourselves, but it looks really fun, and at a progressive, high performance level. It will be a cool challenge for the young sailors!"

No matter who wins the honours, all participants gain invaluable experience, as they are coached by Steinacher and Hagara in taking on the demanding challenge of foiling. The Austrian legends are also the masterminds behind the Red Bull Youth America's Cup, where victorious young skipper Peter Burling learned skills that helped to take him all the way to his current position of helmsman for Emirates Team New Zealand as the team prepares for its next America's Cup campaign.

General Manager from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Hayden Porter says this style of event will be a spectacle for those watching both on and off the water.

"These pocket rockets will be literally flying down the harbour with some of the top youth talent we have in New Zealand taking charge of the boats." Says Porter. "These no fear young guns will be wanting to prove themselves. The weekend will also see the Classics Yacht Association regatta at the RNZYS so you will have the oldest and most famous boats in New Zealand and the latest and greatest sharing the harbour."

- NZ Herald

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