Yachting: Kiwi crews emerge as frontrunners for youth crown

By Dana Johannsen

The youth regatta, which features 10 teams from eight different countries, started in San Francisco yesterday with two fleet races.
The youth regatta, which features 10 teams from eight different countries, started in San Francisco yesterday with two fleet races.

The battle between the two Kiwi teams is shaping as an interesting sub-plot to the Red Bull Youth America's Cup.

The youth regatta, which features 10 teams from eight different countries, started in San Francisco yesterday with two fleet races. It was the two New Zealand teams in the fleet - Olympic silver medallist Peter Burling's NZL Sailing Team, and Full Metal Jacket Racing, skippered by the rather fittingly named Will Tiller - who quickly emerged as frontrunners for the inaugural crown.

Burling's crew led after the opening day, having picked up a second and a fourth placing from their two races, while FMJ Racing recovered from a seventh in the opening race to win the second and rocket up the standings to third. It was looking like a Kiwi one-two finish in the second race, but a boundary error from the NZL Sailing Team proved costly, with Burling slipping back to fourth on the final leg. The mistake cut the team's buffer over French team Next World Energy, who had a consistent day on the water with a fourth and a third, to just one point.

With Burling just one of two skippers in the fleet with previous experience in the AC45 catamarans, his position at the top of the ladder is not surprising. The emergence of Tiller, who has a keelboat background, is a little more unexpected. Tiller believes his team's strength is the time they have spent together on the water.

Tiller's crew have sailed together on the world match racing circuit for around four years. "We have a solid core unit who have been together a while. I think it definitely helps us gel on board, we have a really strong team bond," he said.

Tiller blamed nerves and "stupid decision-making" for his team's poor start, but said once they had a race under their belt they settled into their rhythm.

"The difference was getting off that start line well in race two and getting to the first mark in the lead," Tiller said.

"You've got to get in there early and tussle for your position right up to the start gun. We're learning all the time and getting better and better. We need to because there is quality competition."

Two further fleet races are scheduled for today.

- NZ Herald

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