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Young Ewan eyes world champs after US triumph

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Ewan Brazle had only just turned 10 when he jumped in an O’pen skiff for the first time. 

It was June 2020, three months after New Zealand's first Covid-19 lockdown derailed what was meant to be the start of the surfing holiday of a lifetime around the country for the US-based Brazle family. 

"We arrived in New Zealand in March 2020 planning to go on a surf trip, but only a few days later everyone went into lockdown and we just kind of.... stayed," Dad Joel said. 

The oldest of his and Mischy's three kids had been introduced to sailing through a local youth recreation programme in their hometown of Bainbridge Island in Washington two summers prior and he was "already obsessed” with the sport. 

“By June it was getting to the time of year when Ewan would start sailing in the US and he was asking about it more and more. We were in Raglan at the time, so Mischy reached out to the local sailing club and their head coach offered to take him sailing." 

Ewan Brazle (right) won the O'pen skiff North American championship in San Diego. Photo / Taui Duer

Ewan Brazle (right) won the O'pen skiff North American championship in San Diego. Photo / Taui Duer 

When the pair couldn't get an Optimist sorted before one of their outings, the coach suggested Ewan try out an O’pen skiff. 

"When they got back off the water he was just glowing. He couldn’t get enough of the speed and we all knew that was it,” Joel said. 

Fast forward three years and Ewan, who turned 13 in February, has just defeated more than 80 other young sailors from around the world – some two years older than him – to win the O’pen skiff North American championship at the Mission Bay Yacht Club in San Diego. 

He won seven of 18 races to claim the title by four points from American Gage Christopher - for the biggest results of his young career so far. 

“He sailed really well and showed a lot of resilience. The hard work he's put in over the past year really paid off," Joel said. 

"He sailed in the same regatta last year, in Charleston in South Carolina, and finished fourth - so he was determined to return and give it another go this year.” 

Ewan has also won an international event in Australia and the New Zealand O'pen skiff national title in the last two years. 

The Brazles have since settled in Manly, north of Auckland - with Ewan’s passion for sailing and the support of the Manly Sailing Club and the Russell Coutts Sailing Foundation a big part of their decision. 

While Joel says he didn't know much about sailing when they first arrived in New Zealand "and didn't fully grasp" who Coutts was, he has been "blown away" by the Kiwi yachting icon's enthusiasm for developing young sailors. 

“Russell's obviously got his hands full with SailGP and a number of other things, but he has this habit of making time for our kids - like in Lyttelton (for the national championships) in November. Suddenly, he’s out there on the water running a session with a bunch of the kids. And to see how into it he is... his passion for youth sailing really shines through. 

“And it’s not only Russell. The club has many incredible people - like Barry Thom, Harold Bennett, Barbara Kendall, and the foundation coaches - all engaging with the kids and creating this ideal ecosystem for them to learn."

Ewan Brazle in action at the Mission Bay Yacht Club. Photo / Tauri Duer

Ewan Brazle in action at the Mission Bay Yacht Club. Photo / Tauri Duer

Thom, the Manly Sailing Club Commodore, said Ewan's commitment this season was paying off.

"He has fully embraced the concept of hours on the water and has been out pretty much daily all season. His results speak to that focus and work ethic," Thom said.

"Beyond winning, he is just a wonderful kid with a great heart." 

Ewan is off to a Coutts-led training camp in Lake Garda in Italy in early July before competing at the 2023 O'pen Skiff world championships in Rimini a few days later. He finished 28th out of 153 competitors in the under-15 category at last year’s event in Maubuisson, France – despite only being 12 at the time. 

The rest of the Brazle family have now caught the sailing bug – Joel and Mischy are handy keelboat sailors and Ewan's younger sisters have also started to sail at the foundation. 

"I guess our surfing trip turned into a different kind of adventure and we’re now firmly planted here," Joel said. 

“The club’s become like our second home. It’s an incredible support network – for young sailors but also for their families. It’s just so different to anything we've ever experienced.”

Results and standings from the 2023 O'pen skiff North American championship hosted by Mission Bay Yacht Club, San Diego.

U15 fleet (49 boats)

1st: Ewan Brazle (Manly Sailing Club) 1 1 2 3 1 1 (11) 2 5 3 (15) 1 3 (9) 2 1 2 (7) - 28 points

2nd: Gage Christopher (Balboa Yacht Club) 5 2 (7) 2 2 (7) 2 4 1 1 1 5 1 (12) 1 2 (6) 3 -32 pts

3rd: Lachlan Duer (South Carolina Yacht Club) 3 3 1 1 3 2 (7) (12) 6 4 4 2 2 (19) 4 (12) 7 2 - 44 pts

U12 fleet (24 boats)
1st: Will Ramsay (NHYC) 14 23 19 28 17 (30) 22 18 2 (35) 13 12 6 28 23 (32) (37) 12 - 237 pts

2nd: Ronan Servais (San Diego Yacht Club) 28 25 (59) 29 36 33 (41) 8 16 23 7 19 8 37 (52) (43) 32 41 - 342 pts

3rd: Jack Condon (NHYC) (49) (DNC86) 31 24 14 20 20 21 33 14 38 (40) 37 10 27 34 34 (45) - 357 pts

Open fleet (8 boats) 

1st: Arabella Duer (South Carolina Yacht Club) 2 7 4 5 6 5 6 1 4 (29) (9) (DNC86) (17) 1 8 6 4 4 - 63 pts

2nd: Charlie Marynowski (Buffalo Canoe Club) 7 4 3 7 5 (9) 1 5 (17) (16) (21) 3 5 6 3 8 9 9 - 75 pts

3rd: Loki Barrett (Mission Bay Yacht Club) (24) 16 10 6 7 12 12 16 (21) 6 (34) 6 (22) 13 14 11 3 5 -137 pts.

Full results here.