The Volvo Yachting Excellence Awards are on later this month and some of the winners have already been announced. We'll be profiling them over the next few weeks.
NZL Sailing Team (Youth America’s Cup) – Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
The NZL Sailing Team came agonisingly close to retaining the Youth America’s Cup won by the likes of Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney in 2013. They 2017 team went into the final day in fifth but had one hand on the trophy after winning all three races on the second day. That was until the Swedish and German boats tangled at the final mark, allowing Great Britain’s Land Rover BAR to sneak through and claim the trophy by two points. An illustration of the NZL Sailing Team’s dominance on the final day was the fact they were 3 minutes and 57 seconds ahead of the second-placed BAR in the final race. Team: Logan Dunning Beck, Stewart Dodson, Micah Wilkinson, Isaac McHardie, Matthew Kempkers, Harry Hull, Luca Brown, Josh Salthouse.
Alex Maloney & Molly Meech – Murrays Bay Sailing Club
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech were third at the 49erFX world championships in Porto – the only medal won by NZL Sailing Team members in 2017. They started off in terrific fashion, winning four of the first six races in qualifying to take an early lead and consistency was a feature of their regatta, finishing inside the top three in nine of the 15 races. What made it particularly notable was the fact conditions were often very challenging, with high winds and huge swells off the coast of Portugal. The Olympic silver medallists were also second at Kiel Week in Germany in June, leading the competition for three days, and were fifth at the World Cup finals in Santander – they would have finished in the medals if they hadn’t picked up a costly penalty. Recently they dominated the 49erFX fleet to win the Enoshima Olympic Week regatta at the venue that will be used to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Emily Riley - Solo circumnavigation of New Zealand
Emily Riley completed her solo circumnavigation of New Zealand In April 2017, accomplishing a goal she set out to achieve when she bought her yacht Honey five years ago. She set off from Lyttelton in her Sadler 32' in 2012, heading south to Otago and then on to Stewart Island. Challenging weather conditions almost put the entire trip in question, but Riley continued on. She quickly discovered the three-month time limit she had given herself wasn't going to allow her enough time to linger in places like Fiordland, so she changed the plan to circumnavigate the South Island instead. In December 2016, she set off again from Lyttelton, this time to finish the circumnavigation by sailing solo around the North Island. Once again, bad weather, sea sickness and breakages made her question her decision but, with the help of people she met along the way, she was able to fulfil her dream in April.
Steve Cranch – Royal Akarana Yacht Club
Steve Cranch has been a tremendously influential figure in the Classic Yacht Association and was instrumental in working with Waterfront Auckland in establishing Heritage Landing - a marina dedicated to showcasing some of the country’s classic yachts and launches. His love of classic boats is further illustrated by the fact he previously managed the New Zealand Traditional Boatbuilding School, whose core function lies at the teaching of classic boat building, and through his work as the current chairman he has led the re-establishment of the school at its new premises. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also been Sailability Auckland head coach since 2009, helping hundreds of people with disabilities experience the freedom of sailing independently, and he has also played a key hand in the development of Raid New Zealand, an organisation focused on promoting and facilitating small rowing and sailing boat adventures. The first international raid and regatta was held in New Zealand in 2016, which attracted worldwide entrants and was a huge success.
Helena Horswell – Royal Akarana Yacht Club
Helena Horswell has been a big supporter of the Royal Akarana Yacht Club and the wider Auckland sailing community over the last five years. Despite her considerable disability, Helena is a key volunteer at Royal Akarana, spending at least one day a week at the club doing a variety of tasks from gardening to race administration. Her biggest contributions have been to the club’s offshore sailing programme, and more recently she has become Akarana’s volunteer coordinator, which has been a massive undertaking given the club’s move out of their clubhouse for a major rebuild. She has also organised all the on-water volunteers and late last year oversaw the volunteer roster for the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships. Helena is a club race officer, and this year ran the RS Feva national championships and also a series for sailors with severe disabilities.
Richard Gifford – Queen Charlotte Yacht Club
Richard Gifford has been a driving force behind the Queen Charlotte Yacht Club as well as sailing in the region for the past 11 years. He has been, among other things, commodore, vice-commodore (twice), rear commodore, NZIODA representative and regional representative, and also the guy mucking out after another incursion of the sea into the club or presenting evidence at a resource consent hearing. During his most recent three years as commodore, Richard has played a key role in the club’s redevelopment plans. He has also been an avid promoter of Queen Charlotte Yacht Club’s coaching programme, seeing this as essential to fostering skills within the junior sailors, and it has been so successful that, in 2016, 13 junior sailors from the club were invited to represent New Zealand overseas. A lot of this was down to the fact he often transported sailors to regattas, believing they needed to travel to regattas and training clinics to gain experience in bigger fleets and extend themselves against the top sailors.
Youth Performance Awards
Brianna & Courtney Reynolds-Smith – Murrays Bay Sailing Club
The 17-year-old twins who sail out of the Murrays Bay Sailing Club won the under-20 division of the 470 junior world championships in Japan in September and finished eighth overall. The pair, sailing one of the 470 boats that Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie used in their last Olympic campaign, started the regatta slowly with a 24th in the first race but emphasised their growth with a fourth in the top-10 medal race. What made it remarkable was the fact they were up against crews who had finished in the top 10 at the open 470 world championships and they were clearly one of the youngest crews at the regatta. The Reynolds-Smiths recently made the jump up from the 420 class, where they were sixth at the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships at Torbay and have set a target of sailing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They also won the women’s title at the 470 national championships (third overall) and Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta (fourth overall).
Seb Menzies – Murrays Bay Sailing Club
Seb Menzies convincingly won the 2017 Optimist national championships to confirm his standing as the country’s top Optimist sailor. The 13-year-old won six of his eight races to claim the title by 12 points. On top of that, he also helped the Murrays Bay Sailing Club’s No 1 team win the teams event. Seb also won all three ranking regattas on top of his national title to finish the season with a perfect score. He won 18 of the 32 races he sailed in, with a sixth at the national championships his worst result of the season, and also enjoyed good results in a P-Class (1st 2016 North Island champs, 2nd 2017 Auckland champs), RS Feva (3rd nationals) and Starling (15th North Island champs) to illustrate his growing ability. Menzies could still have another two years in the Optimist but recently moved into a 420.
Josh Armit – Murrays Bay Sailing Club
Josh Armit won the under-17 title at the Laser Radial youth world championships in Holland in dominant fashion, and came agonisingly close to picking up another medal in the under-19 fleet. The 15-year-old Murrays Bay sailor won the under-17 championship in Medemblik by a whopping 41 points over Australia's Zac Littlewood, with the third-placed getter another 75 points behind. He was also tied on points with second in the under-19 fleet but finished fourth overall on countback in a field of 280 sailors. Since last September, Josh won all six major national Laser Radial events and he also won two Australian regattas. Last month he won the Yachting New Zealand youth trials to earn a spot in the New Zealand team to compete at the Youth Sailing World Championships in Sanya, China, in December.