The young guns are getting ready for the opportunity of a lifetime at the Red Bull Youth America's Cup.
Ten international teams of youth sailors, representing 8 countries will be on the starting line on September 1 in San Francisco.
At stake is more than just the newly minted Red Bull Youth America's Cup trophy. This is a pathway for young sailors into the America's Cup. The stage is set. The preparation and training is finished. Now the sailors have to perform.
On Thursday morning, the 10 skippers were introduced to the media, along with double Olympic gold medalists, and Red Bull Youth America's Cup Sports Directors, Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher. Below are highlights of what they had to say:
Hans-Peter Steinacher, Red Bull Youth America's Cup Sports Director, "The biggest step has come this month, here in San Francisco. They're out every day in perfect conditions. We've seen from the practice races they are ready to go and to push the boats really hard."
Roman Hagara, Red Bull Youth America's Cup Sports Director, "It's been quite amazing to see the improvement of the guys over these days, especially since the Selection Series in February to now."
Charlie Ekberg, Swedish Youth Challenge (SWE), "The knowledge among the youth sailors is so good and they're all fantastic sailors. I reckon the competition here might be harder than during the America's Cup World Series. The development curve has been really steep these past two weeks. Now, since we've come here, the development of all the guys, with the help from Artemis Racing, has been fantastic. We think we have a great chance to win this."
Lucien Cujean, Team Tilt (SUI), "We've sailed 150 days in Switzerland and Europe. We train now in San Francisco but it's very hard for us to compare and make a good prediction before the race. We will see on the first day of racing. The speed trials will be a fantastic opportunity for all of the teams to sail fast and test the boat."
Michael Menninger, American Youth Sailing Force (USA), "We've done a lot of practicing on San Francisco Bay and it's helped a lot. The Bay is a difficult place to sail. There's consistent breeze, but also a lot of current changes, current lines and other things to take into account. We've spent a lot of time practicing on the smaller SL 33 catamaran on the Bay, and that's a good advantage for us."
Charlie Buckingham, USA45 Racing (USA), "The America's Cup and the Olympics are the pinnacles of our sport so this is an amazing opportunity for all of us. When our team got selected, it was something I couldn't pass up. It's been challenging. Every day I go out in the catamaran I learn something new about high-performance sailing and I'm really enjoying it."
Jason Waterhouse, Objective Australia (AUS), "There's no surprise there is a lot of Aussies in the Cup and that means we have a lot of mentors, Jimmy Spithill, Darren Bundock, Nathan Outteridge. This is our chance to jump into the America's Cup and to be seen so we're going to give it everything we've got."
Arthur Ponroy, Next World Energy (FRA), "France has been strong in multihull sailing but there is a lot of talent in this fleet. It won't be easy to win. We have had good advice from Loick Peyron and the Energy Team from the AC World Series. His most important tip was, 'have fun!'"
Philip Buhl, All in Racing (GER), "Obviously Roman and Hans-Peter have so much experience so they are always helpful in coaching us and letting us know how to improve… The starts are a lot of fun. There's good racing, tight racing with 10 boats on the starting line. It's so important to have a good start."
Peter Burling, NZL Sailing Team with Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), "I think it's an advantage to have sailed in the America's Cup World Series before, but in the last month everyone here has had a lot of training and a lot of good yachting together as teams so I think everyone has come up in their level."
Will Tiller, Full Metal Jacket Racing (NZL), "We come from the match racing, keelboat, background. Much slower boats than these AC45s. But as soon as the Red Bull Youth America's Cup was announced we fully committed to this. Everyone in the team has got involved in multihulls. It's been a steep learning curve but this month has been great and we've really come together strong."
Antonio Mello, ROFF/Cascais Sailing Team (POR), "The starts are going to play a big role in these races. The boat that gets to the mark first is going to have a good race. But still, you can make big gains on the downwind legs. All of the teams here are strong. Anyone here can win."
Fast facts about the Red Bull Youth America's Cup:
• The Red Bull Youth America's Cup runs from September 1-4 and is based out of the America's Cup Village at Marina Green.
• The format is fleet racing - 2 races per day, for an 8 race series, with racing beginning at 11:10am each day. The final race will carry double-points.
• The boats are AC45 catamarans powered by giant wing sails - the same boats used by the America's Cup teams in the AC World Series from 2011-2013.
• Teams are composed of six sailors, aged 19-24, who represent their country through a nationality rule.