Malone and RNZYS Performance Programme Trailblazers Building Professional Sailing Pathway in the Youth Foiling Gold Cup

 In America's Cup, International Events, Major Regattas, News, Performance Programme

With the 2ND edition of the Youth Foiling Gold Cup (YFGC) quickly approaching, the debuting New Zealand team of Niall Malone, Serena Woodall, Ollie Gilmour, and Oliver Lloyd and manager Sam Hume are packing their bags and in their final preparations to take on the some of the best youth sailors in the world.

“Our training on water this summer has been all about adaptation and using the resources we have – the RNZYS’s foiling catamarans are much different to the Persico 69F monohulls we will be sailing”, said skipper Niall Malone.

“We’ve also been targeting specific workons for our crew, for example Serena Woodall has been learning trimming the main on a foiling boat but our team has been gelling really well – we’re stoked with the progression we’ve made, and confidence is high”.

Niall, Serena, Ollie and Oliver have also been training off water together and going to the gym as a team. Getting the team dynamic right early has been key for Niall, “as we hope to be spending 24 hours a day for the next year together” with qualification for the finals series in December being the goal for the team.

Serena has already shown great form this summer, as part of the 2021 New Zealand Women’s Match Racing Championship winning 2.0 Racing crew.

However, Malone understands they will be coming in as the fresh crew into a series where many of the teams had experience with the Youth Foiling Gold Cup and the Persico 69F class.

“The first few regattas will be based on learning the boats and not compromising too much in taking risks, and our goal early on is to sail well without much risk taking”

The aim of this expedition into the YFGC is to create pathways for the crew to get seats in the 37th America’s Cup Regatta, with Serena aiming for the Women’s America’s Cup and Niall, Oliver, and Ollie after seats in the Youth America’s Cup. However, the team isn’t piling the pressure on themselves and are “focusing on sailing, not results – hopefully focusing on the sailing will bring results”.

“Our biggest disadvantage is that other teams that have had a go on 69F and done the first season. However, a lot of other teams wouldn’t have been able to sail on foils since the last edition of the cup,” says Malone. 

The team has been learning the ropes of the Persico 69F from afar and are eager to be able to get their hands on one as soon as possible when they arrive for their first chance during the pre-regatta training days and practice racing in Miami.

“We see the 69F and the YFGC as the first step in a totally new kind of sailing, and any access will give massive opportunities in the future – there’s more owner-driven monohull foiling circuits upcoming and we’re getting on the ground level”

Niall and the team have talked loosely to a few people around what the YFGC and the Persico 69F is like, with interviews from people like fellow Kiwi and 69F Pro Cup contestant Phil Robertson having come in helpful for the team.

“Because of the size of these boats, they combine keelboat sailing without foiling in lower conditions” says Niall. “If it’s too light, we have been given a few tips that we need to be able sailing the Persico 69F like a normal boat instead of foiling”. Having a team of 4 means the team can play with combinations onboard depending on the conditions, but Niall admits that without having sailed the class “there is still a lot of unknowns”.

Although the team has had most of their foiling experience on Moth’s and the RNZYS’s Nacra 20’s, Niall, Serena, Oliver and Ollie are “looking forward to playing with the foiling technology in a bigger boat as quickly as possible”

“I think understanding the modding challenges and the setups for the 69F will be the biggest learning curve” says Niall. “The moth class is the closest foiling monohull experience I’ve had, and that is foils only so we will need to learn the transitions between foiling and not. We’ll also need to learn the 69F’s VMG angles, decide between using jennikers or 2 sailing, and adapt to the YFGC’s unconventional racecourse layouts”.

The team fly out on the 28th of January and have 4 stopovers on their way to Miami, where they will have 3 days downtime to recover and scout out the race areas. For each of the 4 Acts, crews have 10 straight days of sailing in the regatta with 3 days of training, 3 days practice racing, 2 days of round robin and 2 days of finals. 

Niall, Serena, Oliver, and Ollie then get a few days to explore Miami before flying to Palma de Mallorca as a training base for May’s Act 2 in Slovenia and June’s European Match Racing Championships in Italy. The Youth Foiling Gold Cup then crosses back over the Atlantic to Newport, Rhode Island for Act 3 starting on the 11th of June before returning to Italy for the 4th and final Act where the team will find out if they have qualified for the YFGC Finals in December.

The team would like to thank the RNZYS’s Performance Programme sponsors NZLSailing Foundation, Emirates, Musto, Marlow and the Foiling Family as well as their charitable partner Sea Cleaners and team sponsors Musto, Mackersy Property, Butch Pet Foods, Steven Lloyd Architecture, Lacy Day Cruises and Holistic Baby.

“We’re not sure where we will sit in competitiveness, but we’re not going to just take part”, says Malone. 

“This is definitely a 2-year campaign, and we want to learn as much as possible this year and go back with more experience next year to give it a really good crack and help turn the Youth Foiling Gold Cup into a new pathway for the AC37 Youth and Women’s America’s Cup teams”.

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