By W. C. Stevenson
20-knot winds and troublesome waves were on the menu again for the second day of racing in the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup.
But despite the tough conditions, and capsizing twice, Bermudian Azhai Smith solidified his place as the top Bermudian of the regatta with a second strong showing, finishing the day in 8th overall. “It was blowing really hard out there,” said the 12-year-old. “I capsized twice, but luckily it wasn't during the races, just once after a race and once before. It was pretty windy, which I’m okay at handling, but not the best.". With only two years of sailing under his belt, Smith’s performance against some of the top sailors in the world has been heartening. While he was initially hesitant getting into the sport, his talent for racing has Smith pondering a future in professional sailing."It's great to be the top Bermudian in the field. My dad, he really loves boats, so he kind of wanted me to get into sailing. I wasn't quite sure about it at first, but I love it now.”
The young man will be able to compete in Optimists for three more years, but at the rate he’s growing, Smith said transitioning into another boat might come sooner rather than later.“I think I'm going to go into Lasers next and continue on from there,” he said.
The day’s racing belonged to the girls once again, as Mia Nicolosi lead the field for a second day running. The 13-year-old from St. Thomas overcame conditions not suited to her size, ending the day with two first places, a third, and a fourth place finish. "There's always room to do better,” she said. “The heavy winds are really tiring.”
Among those suffering the worst from the chilly, windy conditions was River Andrews, who is sailing in Bermuda for the first time.“I expected it to be really warm here, since it's a tropical island,” said the 14-year-old from Antigua. “I think I do better in heavy wind than in light wind, but I did better in the third and fourth race because it wasn't as heavy and I warmed up a bit. These kids are the best of the best. They're really difficult to beat. So you really have to try here.”
Andrews is in Bermuda along with his filmmaker father, Alexis, whose movie “Vanishing Sail” will be screening at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club tonight. The film follows one of the last remaining master boatbuilders, Alwyn Enoe, in the Lesser Antilles, in his race to build one last sloop and compete in the Antigua Classic Regatta, and hopefully preserve the art of boatbuilding for future generations.
Junior Gold Cup continues tomorrow.
Sailors competing in the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup were given a special hello from the three America’s Cup teams practicing in the Great Sound on Wednesday.
After the first day of racing which saw winds increase to around 18 knots by the fourth and final race, Bermudian Ahzai Smith, 12, said he and the other Optimist sailors were treated to an up-close and personal look at the flying AC45’s of teams Softbank Team Japan, Artemis, and Oracle Team USA. “It was cool. We got to go really close to them and give them high fives,” said Smith, who finished the day in 9th place as the top Bermudian sailor. Salt caked across his face, the water-weary Smith was excited to get a good look at the boats he some day hopes to be competing in."I'm gonna try for the Bermuda Red Bull Youth team,” he said, avoiding any declarations of surety. “I’m gonna try. It’s going to be tough competition."
While the competition for Bermuda’s premier youth sailing team will be undoubtedly difficult, Smith will be in good stead after racing alongside some of the world’s top sailing talent in the Junior Gold Cup this year.“It trains us to get better when we go overseas, to race them in their countries,” he added.
The Junior Gold Cup has always emphasized the importance of including girls in the regatta, and today showed just why that is. Sailing is just one of the two sports in which women compete equally with men in competition, and 13-year- old Mia Nicolosi gave proof to that parity, finishing atop the leaderboard at the end of the day’s racing."I liked it a lot at the beginning when it was kind of light,” said Nicolosi, who arrived in Bermuda earlier this week from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. “It got really windy though towards the end of the day. It felt like 20 knots.”As one of the top female talents in youth sailing today, Nicolosi will be opting out of her final year in the Optimist in order to gain experience sailing 29ers and NACRAs. Although unaware she was in first place after the day’s racing, Nicolosi wasn’t exactly impressed with her finishes of first, second, third and fourth. “I could always do better,” she said.
A first-timer when it comes to sailing in Bermuda, 14-year- old Marius Westerlind from finished the day in third."The conditions for the first three races was really good because we had, I dunno, 14 knots maybe, but the last race it went up to like 20 knots and that's not really my wind,” said the Swede. “It's hard to get in a good position in heavy wind because I'm a bit lighter than the other sailors.”Like many of the kids visiting the island, Westerlind will be taking full advantage of the warmer climate while he can. It's really nice because it's warm here compared to where I'm from. I'm making some new friends, but most of them I already know from before. It's really cool being here with them."I'm going diving in about half an hour, I've been wake-boarding, and then I think I'm going cliff jumping, and then maybe to the beach."
Sailing continues tomorrow with 4 more races scheduled. For further information and full results follow us on Facebook or the website www.juniorgoldcup.com