The next breed of potential Olympic sailors has been identified with the announcement of the Aon Fast Track squad.
A youth development squad was first created in 2011 and the Aon Fast Track programme aims to accelerate the standard of the most talented youth sailors in the country to successful Olympic campaigners.
Previous members of the squad have included the likes of Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, who won silver in the 49ereFX at last year’s Rio Olympics.
This year’s batch is made up of 12 sailors, with eight coming in the 49er class, and it’s envisaged all would transition to the top-tier NZL Sailing Team within two or three years.
“In the short term, they are the training partners who will push our Olympians,” Yachting New Zealand acting high performance director Ian Neely said. “In the long term, they are our future Olympians.
“They have all been very successful at youth level and in many cases Olympic level and are very talented and dedicated. Without the programme, most of them would have a very difficult time putting together an Olympic campaign of their own.”
Three members of the squad are involved with the NZL Sailing Team who are aiming to defend the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup won by the New Zealand crew skippered by Peter Burling in 2013. Logan Dunning Beck will skipper the foiling AC45 catamaran for June’s campaign in Bermuda and will be joined by fellow Aon Fast Track members Isaac McHardie and Micah Wilkinson.
Andrew McKenzie is now into his third year with the Aon Fast Track squad and says it has helped provide him with the knowledge to build a successful campaign and to be competitive against some of the best sailors in the world.
Some of those are on his doorstep, considering Sam Meech won a hotly-contested race for the Laser berth at last year’s Olympics and went on to win bronze in Rio.
“It makes it one of the most exciting classes to be part of because you have to work so hard to get anywhere,” said McKenzie, who is national Laser champion and who was sixth at December’s World Cup final in Melbourne. “Having a strong squad is tough but it helps me become a better sailor. This year is all about putting some results on the board and graduating to the NZL Sailing Team next year.”
2017 Aon Fast Track Squad
49er: Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn
49er: Isaac McHardie and William McKenzie
49er: Markus Somerville and Jack Simpson
49erFX: Erica Dawson and Kate Stewart
Laser: Andrew McKenzie, George Gautrey
Nacra 17: Olivia Mackay and Micah Wilkinson
- For more information, please contact Yachting New Zealand communications manager Michael Brown on 021 677 618.
- Pictured: Members of the Aon Fast Track squad with Yachting New Zealand acting high performance director Ian Neely.