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The Emirates Team New Zealand sailing team took time out from their testing programme to mix with the next generation of America’s Cup sailors at the optimist nationals held over Easter.
The New Zealand International Optimist Dinghy Association Nationals is an annual yachting regatta that this year attracted young sailors from five countries to the Kohimarama Yacht Club.
A fleet of more than 250 youth sailors between the ages of nine and 15 competed on the waters off Kohimarama in what is the biggest event on the calendar for the youngsters. The optimist class - a small, singlehanded dinghy - is considered the breeding ground for the country’s top young sailing talent. The Emirates Team New Zealand crew, including past national optimist champs Ray Davies and Peter Burling, were there to greet the fleet as they came off the water on the final day of the regatta, helping the competitors to haul their boats out and de-rig.
These are heroes the young sailors look up to. Ray said that being at the event brought memories of his youth sailing days. "You know the excitement that’s there as a kid when you compete at big events like this. "This would have been on their radar all year round and they trained for it. There would have been a lot of anxiety for them this morning and a lot of camaraderie when it was all over," said Ray. "There’s no wind for us to go sailing today so it’s a great opportunity for us to come down as a sailing team and help show our support for a great event."
Archie Cropley - one of a sizeable contingent of Australian sailors that travelled over for the event - took out the regatta over his Woollahra Sailing Club teammate Lachie Brewer, while Murrays Bay Sailing Club’s Henry Wilson was the top-ranked local competitor in third.
Toyota New Zealand has been sponsoring optimists for more than 10 years by assisting New Zealand yachting clubs to host world-class events and develop aspiring young sailors. Our success as a sailing nation in the future depends on a strong environment for talented sailors at grassroots level.