Street takes the long road to youth worlds

by Michael Brown

It's 9169km from Auckland to Sanya, China, and Sam Street will feel like he's already travelled that far when he takes off with the rest of the New Zealand team for the upcoming youth sailing world championships.

Sam Street and James Barnett are going to their first youth worlds. Photo: Oceanography.

Street journeys from New Plymouth to the North Shore and back most weekends to train with 420 helmsman James Barnett. It's not an ideal setup because of the tyranny of distance but the pair have made it work and won October's Yachting New Zealand youth trials to earn a place at the youth worlds.

"It’s pretty difficult but we have to do it because we can’t sail during the week it means we have to commit to each weekend," Barnett said.

The pair first sailed together in a 420 in February when they finished 5th at the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta - they hadn't really even trained together. They quickly targeted winning the youth trials and achieved it over four days sailing at the Manly Sailing Club.

Barnett and Street are part of a 14-strong NZL Sailing Foundation youth team who will compete in China from December 9-16. Only two have competed at a youth worlds previously - Nacra 15 pair Greta Stewart and Henry Haslett - so have little idea of what it's going to be like.

The youth sailing world championships is the pinnacle regatta for sailors aged 14-19 and last year was hosted at Torbay when 379 youngsters from 65 nations competed across the nine classes.

"We are aiming for top five," Barnett said. "If you’re not going there to win it, what’s the point? It’s our first youth worlds but we are going to try to achieve a top result."

Street added: "We have been quite lucky because James’ brother [Sam] has been to two [youth worlds]. He’s given us hints of what to expect."

They could also quiz Stewart and Haslett.

Stewart won bronze at the last two youth sailing world championships with her sister Kate in the girl's 29er but has moved up to the 49erFX. It prompted Greta to switch to the Nacra 15 and team up with Haslett, who sailed in the boy's 420 at the last youth worlds.

"It’s a pretty special event to take part in," Haslett said. "It’s pretty awesome to go back to another one, but it will be a slightly different feeling. I loved it last year and it will be awesome to go back.

"[My advice to the others would be that] it’s a serious event and something you have been working towards for a long time but it’s about trying to enjoy the moment as well because that can help your sailing if you’re more relaxed.

"You are going up against the best in the world. You can test yourself against them and put yourself in an environment to see where you are at and hopefully learn a lot from that as well. These are the guys we will probably be racing if we continue on down the track." 

New Zealanders have won 51 medals at the youth worlds since the first in 1971 and many including Chris Dickson, Russell Coutts, Jo Aleh, Blair Tuke, Stu Bannatyne and Tom Ashley have achieved considerable success in their sailing careers.

See here for an introduction to all 14 NZL Sailing Foundation youth team sailors who will compete at next month's youth sailing world championships in Sanya, China.

29 Nov 2017
29 Nov 2017