By Belle Strachan. Photos by Ryan Schack.
(LONG BEACH, CALIF.) A new wave of young US talent is hitting the water, and ready to go up against the best in the world.
The 2017 29er World Championship, hosted by Alamitos Bay Yacht Club in Long Beach, Calif., brought together 129 teams from sixteen different countries. As an event historically held outside of the United States, this year offered young American sailors the opportunity to take advantage of racing at one of the highest levels of competition – and take advantage they did: forty-nine teams represented the United States, compared to the seven who competed at the 2016 Worlds in the Netherlands.
For class World Championship events, US Sailing’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) typically develops a travel team with a specific roster of qualified sailors, and that group trains, travels and improves as a unit. Hosting the regatta in the States, however, presented the unique chance for the ODP to not only help more US sailors, but to deploy coaches and tools necessary to boost all American competitors regardless of their experience in the boat.
The 29er is one of the leading high-performance youth classes, with a modern hull and rig combination. However, as is the case in older boats, the biggest performance gains are derived from quality time spent in the boat, and access to experienced coaching. With the help of the ODP, American sailors at this year’s Worlds gained access to a wealth of knowledge to carry forward with them to future events. This included including pre and post-racing briefs, and on-the-water coaching and development.
The impact of the 2017 29er Worlds will not soon be forgotten by the sailors. Long Beach-native Hailey Thompson described the event as an “amazing opportunity to sail against some of the best,” adding that access to competitive regattas is what truly pushes younger sailors to the next level.
Apart from world-class coaching and racing, the young US sailors were exposed to the strong bonds that exist among the competitors in the 29er fleet – connections that were born through their common love of the sport.
Camille White (Annapolis, Md.) shared her experience as a new 29er sailor: “Despite competing against each other, we were all united together because we were representing the USA.”
There is no doubt that US youth sailing is on the rise, thanks in part to the initiatives set in place by US Sailing and its partner organizations in youth racing, and through hard working, ambitious athletes looking to take on new and exciting challenges. While there is still work to do, the ODP hopes to continue to foster the development of US sailors who seek to reach the highest levels of sailing competition.
Events like the 2017 29er Worlds continue to serve as key stepping stones to achieving American victories down the road at the youth level, the Olympic Games, and other high-performance sailing pursuits.