Seb Menzies dreams of one day making it to the top of the sport but doesn't think he would be as well equipped as he is right now without having been involved in the Aon National Youth Clinics over the last few years.
The 17-year-old is one of the brightest prospects in New Zealand sailing, having won world titles in the 420 and 49erFX, and is eyeing up the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
He has graduated from the Aon youth programme, having jumped into an Olympic class boat with George Lee Rush, but knows his development has been fast tracked through his involvement with the clinics run by Yachting New Zealand.
"It's set me up for where I am now," he said. "It's everything from learning good habits and implementing them into your own training to learning what it takes to get to the top. It's been massively beneficial for me. You learn from so many top coaches which you wouldn't get otherwise through club coaching.
"I remember the first one I went to at Manly when I was about 13 and Dan Willcox was coaching us. It was a real eye-opener and gave me an insight into how the more experienced Olympic sailors ran their training sessions. It's a great way to fast track your learning in the youth scene and then into the Olympic scene."
The clinics are run by some of this country's top coaches, including Yachting New Zealand's Olympic coaches, and bring together the best sailors from around the country.
On top of the one-water sessions, specialists are often brought in to talk to the clinic participants about anything from nutrition and fitness through to mental skills and how to set up a campaign.
The new season of Aon clinics is about to get under way. The clinics are open to anyone but sailors must meet certain standards before entering the prgoramme.
There requirements are:
- Assessed to have a basic competency in the class and of a sufficient level to take part safely and at the desired level of the clinics. Sailors must be confident in controlling their boat in winds up to 25 knots so coaches do not get diverted to be safety boats during training.
- Be training consistently and be working towards competing in the 2023 Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta and their class nationals. Sailors should be training 3-4 days per week as a rough guide.
- Attended a recognised eligibility event where their skills can be assessed by a Yachting New Zealand coach.
For the 2022/23 season, these events include:
- Aon New to Youth Class Clinics
- Aon Regional Youth Clinics
- Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta
- Class national championships
- Sir Peter Blake Regatta
Register online here for this season's clinics, and that webpage also contains more information on the Aon youth programmes. Please contact Yachting New Zealand youth and events manager Sam Mackay if you have any questions.
- Pic: Seb Menzies, on the helm, sailing with Brayden Hamilton at an Aon National Youth Clinic. Photo: Yachting New Zealand.