RNZYS PP Team looking for a Squadron Three-peat at US Grand Slam Series

 In Match Racing, News, Performance Programme
From left: Max South, Alastair Gifford, Frankie Dair

The RNZYS Performance Programme team made up of Alastair Gifford, Max South and Frankie Dair will jet off to the United States of America this week on a quest to do the Squadron proud on the international stage by making it a three-peat of RNZYS victories at the US Grand Slam Series. The US Grand Slam Series is made up of four match racing events during August and early September held in Chicago, Detroit and New York. 

Before they packed their bags for what will be an epic adventure, we caught up with the team to chat about all things Grand Slam, the challenges involved in travelling and competing in this current climate, goals for the trip, what it means to be representing the RNZYS overseas, and much more.

Read the full interview below… 

What events are you competing at that make up the grand slam?

First one is the Chicago Match Cup raced in Thompson 28’s, then we head to the Detroit Match Cup in Detroit to race in Ultimate 20’s, then it’s two events in New York – the Oakcliff International and the Thompson Cup which are both sailed in Swedish Match 40’s. We are also hoping to do the Ficker Cup in Long Beach, California in September which is a qualifying event for the prestigious Congressional Cup. 

Have you done any of those events before?

No – and we haven’t sailed any of these boats before either so it’s going to be both interesting and exciting. 

There are obviously quite a few challenges involved in travelling overseas these days, have you hit any roadblocks so far?

Yeah having to quarantine when we get back is a massive one. We’re also trying to make sure we have our vaccines before we go away. Another challenge for us is we have to find extra crew over there. We are looking at some past YTP and older squadron members who are already over there to come and sail with us for some of the events, and we have a few other contacts who can hopefully help us out. 

Gifford helming a team, that included Max South, during the 2020 NZ Match Racing Championship

What’s the goal for the trip?

The goal is to win the grand slam! We want to win all the events and take out the grand slam title which will set us up for next year. If you win the grand slam, you get an invitation to the Congressional Cup for the following year. If we can do that, and some other events, our season pathway for next year will be laid out a lot better because we would have a Congressional Cup entry, a Grand Slam entry and potentially some other match racing tour regattas too if we do well enough. 

More importantly we are trying to complete a three-peat for the RNZYS at the Grand Slam. Nick Egnot-Johnson and Jordan Stevenson are the previous two Grand Slam winners, so if we could take it out it would be a hattrick for the Squadron!

We’re trying to spread the team out across match racing and big boat sailing, we think just sticking to one discipline in sailing isn’t going to get you too far these days, so we want to develop ourselves as all-round sailors by keeping up the match racing but also getting involved in the big boat racing circuits.

Plans for after the Grand Slam Series?

We want to link up with some big boats and events in Europe, we’ve got a keen eye on the maxi worlds in September which would be our ticket to Europe and then see what else we can get involved in. We are linking up with a 72-foot mini maxi called Vespa in Newport before the grand slam in July so hopefully we can get more involved with them too. 

I guess we aren’t really in a rush to come back to New Zealand at this stage, it’s a bit of a moving picture, we are going to try and hang on overseas for a while and see where it takes us. There are some good opportunities out there at the moment which we want to make the most of. 

Any teams you know that are competing, anyone to keep an eye on?

We were just looking at that. There are only a few people on the entries so far. Emil Kjaer who we raced against in NZ at the Youth Worlds last year, Anna Östling who is one of the top female match racers in the world, and I’m sure there will be a lineup of solid US sailors taking part too, like Chis Poole and a few others. 

Gifford and South competing at the 2020 NZ Match Racing Championship

Any event or boat your most looking forward to getting into?

Definitely the final two events where we sail in the Swedish Match 40’s. They are scaled down versions of the 2007 America’s Cup boats. They represent the glory days of match racing, we’ve seen lots of old match racing tour videos of them in action and Nick {Egnot-Johnson} and Jordy {Stevenson} have both said they are epic to match race in.

What does it mean to be representing the RNZYS overseas?

In terms of the Grand Slam we want to really hold up the reputation that has been set by our two teams going over and winning the previous two events. The Squadron is held in high esteem around the world and within the sailing community, especially after defending the America’s Cup this year, so we want to uphold that and keep pushing the boundaries. 

Our team is quite widespread, with our three sailors from Dunedin, Blenheim and Keri Keri which shows you can come from anywhere in the country and do the RNZYS Youth Training Programme and go on to represent your country overseas, obviously something is working really well at the club, so we want to uphold that and do the club proud. 

Team Roles 

Alastair Gifford – Helm

Max South – Trim, 

Frankie Dair – Main

US Grand Slam Series – Event List 

August 6-8: The Chicago Cup – Chicago YC – Tom 28

August 19-22: International Match Race for the Detroit Cup – Bayview YC – Ultimate 20

August 27-30: Oakcliff International – Oakcliff Sailing – Match 40

September 1-4: The Thompson Cup – Seawanhaka Corinthian YC – Match 40

We will be posting updates about the teams progress throughout the Grand Slam Series on our RNZYS Facebook Page HERE

By Andrew Delves  / RNZYS PR & Communications Manager

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