About the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, Past and Present
Featuring the next generation of sailing superstars, the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup is one of the newest and most exciting events on the sailing calendar. Here’s the history of the regatta – including how it’s driving the progression of the sport – plus a snapshot of the rapidly approaching events in Bermuda this June.
Why a “youth” America’s Cup?
The brainchild of the America’s Cup Event Authority and Austrian double Olympic Gold Medalists Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher, the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup was developed to provide an unprecedented career path to the highest ranks of professional competitive sailing by identifying the world’s top young sailors and helping to prepare them for the challenge of America’s Cup racing.
Two-time America’s Cup–winning skipper Jimmy Spithill of ORACLE TEAM USA explains, “There’s never been a pathway for youth sailors. Now, we have that pathway. It’s essentially what college football is to the NFL – a breeding ground of new talent. And it works.”
The Beginning: San Francisco, USA, 2013
In September 2013, for the first time a Red Bull Youth America’s Cup regatta gave sailors aged 18-24 the opportunity to develop their skills on cutting-edge boats in a competitive environment – the same San Francisco waters where the America’s Cup was being contested. Ten teams took part, representing Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. The New Zealand and USA both had two teams entered, bringing the total number of teams to ten. America’s Cup teams loaned the youth series 45-foot training boats – longer than a city bus and featuring a rare kind of solid sail reminiscent of an airplane wing, known as a wing sail. The NZL Sailing Team of New Zealand captured top honors, with another Kiwi crew in second and Portugal also on the podium in third.
“The wing rig was a new challenge for the sailors,” remembers Steinacher, who is Sport Director for the regatta along with Hagara. “In the whole world there were only a few boats existing with wing rigs, and this age group had absolutely no experience with them. That’s exactly what we wanted to do to find the best talent in the world.”
With that first regatta, a fresh wind blew into the sailing scene. Steinacher remarks, “The athletes who performed at their very best in San Francisco are now among the top sailors in the world. Some sail alongside Roman and me on the Red Bull Sailing Team in the Extreme Sailing Series. Others returned to their Olympic path and dominated their classes, and some have got a professional contract in the America’s Cup.”
So far, eight sailors from the 2013 Red Bull Youth America’s Cup have found positions with America’s Cup teams. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who were part of the victorious New Zealand team in San Francisco, have since won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Burling is now helmsman for the Emirates Team New Zealand boat in the America’s Cup, while Tuke is the team’s trimmer. American Cooper Dressler is now a grinder for ORACLE TEAM USA, and the list goes on. In fact, today nearly all America’s Cup teams now have one or more sailors with a background in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
“The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup changed the whole America’s Cup world – the age group that’s sailing on the boats dropped by about 10 years,” Steinacher points out. “All the teams saw that the new boats fit the young generation exactly. So the sailing leaders of the world are picking younger sailors than before.”
In 2017, Bermuda’s Great Sound will form a natural amphitheater for the America’s Cup, and the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will use exactly the same racecourse. Sailing conditions in Bermuda are typically exceptional in June, with historical wind data suggesting that there should be racing conditions 90 percent of the time.