Exciting times ahead for new coach, Zak Merton
Story and picture by Debra Douglas, Breeze Magazine. Read the Breeze Magazine online here.
As a 10-year-old the RNZYS Race Office’s new Coach, Zac Merton, signed up for every water sport he could. His family had just moved from Southland to Tauranga and Zac appreciated the warmer summers and accessibility to the sea.
“I enrolled in a learn-to sail programme; we bought a wooden boat, I kept going and going and got the buzz for it,” said Zac.
As a member of the Tauranga Yacht & Powerboat Club, Zac progressed through Optis, P-class and Starlings to 420s and 470s, with sailing taking him all over the world while amassing plenty of international and big fleet experience.
“I spent a lot of time travelling to events as a teenager – Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, Germany and the UK – including two ISAF Youth World Championships in the 420 class.”
Zac moved to Auckland in 2015 for university and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in marketing and management. He joined the Squadron’s Mastercard Youth Training Programme in 2017, moving to the Performance Programme in 2018 and has been a member of the Knots Racing Team for four years.
Zac: “Two of the proudest moments in my sailing career were when Knots Racing won the US Grand Slam Tour in 2018 and the Match Race Super League in 2019.”
At the time of writing, Zac was looking forward to competing with the Knots team in mid-December at the World Match Racing Tour final, at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Sydney.
“Covid stalled our progress over the past couple of years, so It will be great to get back into high level racing in Elliott 7s, boats we are familiar with.”
“I recognise now how much the Youth Programme did for me and how crucial it is to our sport and to our club to foster young sailors. As coach, I am now helping this year’s intake of 42 members, aged 16-23, to grow not only as athletes and sailors, but also as people. I am also looking at more ways we can compete internationally to become the leading yacht club on and off the water.”
2023 will see Zac and his youth teams competing at three events in Sydney, one in New Caledonia and at the Youth Nationals in Wellington.
“We have an exciting year ahead and an awesome group in the programme, some of whom have done their own high-level sailing beforehand. They are all eager to be there and to cooperate with each other.”
“For me, being their coach is a dream job. There is a lot of pressure because you are dealing with other people’s lives, but I love the competitive aspect, the travel and talking about making boats go faster while hanging out with people I know and respect.”