It would be unfair to label Hawke's Bay sailor Tom Faulknor an experienced hand when it comes to dealing with the various challenges his sport offers.

But the 12-year-old Napier Sailing Club member has been sailing long enough, 4-1/2 years to be precise, to know exactly where he wants to end up.

"America's Cup, the Olympics and SailGP," Faulknor, who will start his Year 8 studies at Hereworth School next year, replied.

He will get an early indication as to how realistic those goals are when he takes on 60 other youngsters, including eight from Hawaii, with similar aspirations in the Property Brokers Open Skiff Nationals off Napier from January 10-12. It will be his second taste of these nationals.


Last year he finished 29th in a 60-strong field at the Auckland-hosted world championships which doubled as the national championships.

"I've got a lot better since then. I'll be aiming for a top five finish this time. We've known we will be hosting these nationals for the past six months and have been training hard ... three days a week, sometimes four, since then," Faulknor said.

He pointed out Kiwi yachting great Sir Russell Coutts introduced the class to New Zealand from Europe and he has benefitted from coaching clinics with Coutts.

"Sir Russell thought the class would be good for Kiwi kids. It's aimed at getting us planning at a young age and is all about having fun and getting a foot in the sailing door."

"He places a big emphasis on boat set ups and handling. When we have briefings with him you learnt plenty about the finer points of sailing ... the technical aspects."

"Sir Russell tells us if you are going to do something stupid do it properly and to work to our full limits," Faulknor said.

He was full of praise for the coaching he received from his father Brook Faulknor, the event director for next month's nationals, Coutts and Aaron Hume-Merry, the sailing coach for the Sir Russell Coutts Sailing Foundation.

Lindisfarne College Year 9 student next year, Carl Marshall, 12, is another of the six-strong host club contingent tipped to do well in next month's nationals. He has also had four years of sailing but this will be his first nationals in the Open Skiff class.


Earlier this year he represented New Zealand at the Qingdao International Optimist Sailing Camp and Regatta in China. He finished 13th overall in a field of 230 sailors, was the 10th placed boy and the third best Kiwi.

Marshall said he is enjoying racing in both classes.

"The skiffs are more about high performance while the optimists are more technical. By doing both I believe it will help me be the complete package when I'm older," Marshall explained.

"I'm aiming for a top 10 finish at the nationals and like Tom [Faulknor] I'm hoping to race at Olympic Games and America's Cup level in the near future," Marshall said.

He is rapt with the coaching he receives from Coutts, Brook Faulknor and the Napier club's international coach Orestes Reyes of Peru.

"The best advice I have got from Sir Russell is to go as hard I can within my limits."

China was his second taste of overseas competition. Last year as a member of a 10-strong New Zealand Development squad at an optimists regatta in Noumea and finished 26th in a fleet of 39. Marshall's display in China was an indication of how much he has progressed.

"Consistency is a major goal for the likes of Tom and I when we get to this stage in our careers," Marshall said.

As he rattled off his list of sponsors, Rip Curl, Thirsty Whale, Scenic Hotels, Ocean Spa and mum and dad, it was obvious he was just as organised off the water as he is on it.

The other host club sailors who will be competing at next month's nationals are Jed Potbury, Winston Leisbach, Will Muir and Jade Pederson. The regatta will involve two age divisions, under-13s and under-17s, which will start separately but race on the same course.

Ten races, four on the Friday and three each on the Saturday and Sunday, are scheduled. The Hawaiian contingent, who competed at last year's worlds in Auckland, were impressed with their Kiwi opponents and eager to race in New Zealand again so opted for the Napier trip.

They will again charter boats. Kiwi sailors from as far south as Wanaka and north as the Bay of Islands have entered.

Coutts will make an appearance at the regatta where he will be able to check on the progress of 27 sailors aged 9-15 who attended a coaching clinic he ran at the Napier club's Summer Regatta last month.