The Auld Mug is the ultimate prize in sailing but there's another America's Cup up for grabs in Bermuda and it's one New Zealand want to hold onto.

The NZL Sailing Team of 2013 won the inaugural Red Bull Youth America's Cup in San Francisco. That team was stacked with some of New Zealand's best young sailors, with Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Andy Maloney and Guy Endean graduating to Emirates Team New Zealand, and the current crop have similar designs of stepping up.

It would help if they win again when racing gets underway tomorrow morning (NZT) in Bermuda and they are expected to be among the contenders.

The 12 teams in the Youth America's Cup have been split into two groups of six and the NZL Sailing Team need to finish in the top four of qualifying to progress to the finals. They will line up tomorrow against Candidate Sailing Team (AUT), Spanish Impulse Team (ESP), TeamBDA (BER), Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) and Next Generation USA (USA) in Group B.


"The team is excited about racing tomorrow," NZL Sailing Team skipper Logan Dunning Beck said. "It's been a long time in the making and we are chomping at the bit to get started.

"We will approach the racing the same way we have been training, head on. The races are over in a heartbeat so there can be no holding back if you want to make the cut for the next round. Every team is pushing hard to progress so there can be no backing off."

The NZL Sailing Team will compete in the AC45 foiling catamaran sailed by Emirates Team New Zealand in the America's Cup World Series. They have the advantage of not having to share it with any other team - there are eight boats for the 12 teams - meaning they can configure it to their specifications.

It has been a huge learning curve, with little time on the actual boats and it didn't help when New Zealand's training block was hit by strong winds last week - the upper limit for the youth teams is 18 knots. They are being coached by former Olympian Rod Davis, who also helmed some of New Zealand's 1992 America's Cup races and has worked as a coach for Team New Zealand.

"We have learned plenty about how the boat sails and feel like we are starting to get the hang of it but we think there is plenty in the tank," Dunning Beck said. "The other teams have certainly been learning from and copying us but we are thinking we can out-learn them. That's our game."

Six fleet races have been scheduled over the two days of qualifying but light winds are forecast on Bermuda's Great Sound. The NZL Sailing Team would prefer more puff but are at the stage where they just want to get racing after such a long buildup.

The Youth America's Cup was set up to provide a career path for sailors aged 18-24 and they are able to do it in the gaze of the America's Cup teams, who will all be watching the youth racing which concludes with the finals on June 22-23 (NZT).

Unlike the America's Cup, which pits one boat against another, the Youth America's Cup is fleet racing with up to eight boats ripping around the Great Sound at up to 40 knots. It means the teams will need to have their wits about them, particularly in stronger breezes, and there have been a few close calls in practice racing.

The NZL Sailing Team have been following Team New Zealand's progress closely and want people to notice them as well.

"It's been cool to see their success and hopefully we can do the same," Dunning Beck said.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Yachting New Zealand