Dinghy Sailors Commandeer America's Cup

There have been lots of complaints in the U.S. about the modern America’s Cup, in response not only to the strange and novel flying boats, but perhaps also in response to the pedigree of the most of the sailors. Until recently, the America’s Cup has been a match of Yachtsmen, not small-boat sailors. Not any more. It’s no coincidence that the vast majority of the principal sailors of the current America’s Cup fleet were, and some still are, world class dinghy (and a few cat) sailors, including Tom Slingsby, Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Glenn Ashby, Nathan Outteridge, Iain Percy, Paul Goodison, Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott, Dean Barker, and Chris Draper. And it's likely no coincidence that the helmsman of the fastest boat right now, Pete Burling of Emirates Team New Zealand, comes from the very highest performance dinghy classes, the 49er and Moth, in which he still competes and wins.

We in the U.S. still seem to follow the adage that yachts are for men, dinghies are for children (and girls don’t sail, but at least that's waning). Most of us learn on low-performance dinghies (Optimist, Sunfish, 420, etc), then if we continue sailing, we “graduate" to big boats. Relative to the large size of our population, this helps to explain our poor showing at the Olympics, which is currently a competition of dinghies and cats. It also explains the near absence of American sailors in the America’s Cup, even on the “American" boat. Having left dinghy sailing as youth, most of us never advanced to a truly high-performance boat as an adult. So not only do many American sailors find it hard to relate to the sailboats, they also don’t recognize the skills of those who sail them. While big boat sailing requires many talents and skills, fast-twitch athleticism is not one of them. Even though it’s the size of a yacht, the AC50 demands the skills of a small boat sailor more than those of a yachtsman. We'd best get used to it. The technology isn't going away.

 
There have been lots of complaints in the U.S. about the modern America’s Cup, in response not only to the strange and novel flying boats, but perhaps also in response to the pedigree of the most of the sailors. Until recently, the America’s Cup has been a match of Yachtsmen, not small-boat sailors. Not any more. It’s no coincidence that the vast majority of the principal sailors of the current America’s Cup fleet were, and some still are, world class dinghy (and a few cat) sailors, including Tom Slingsby, Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, Glenn Ashby, Nathan Outteridge, Iain Percy, Paul Goodison, Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott, Dean Barker, and Chris Draper. And it's likely no coincidence that the helmsman of the fastest boat right now, Pete Burling of Emirates Team New Zealand, comes from the very highest performance dinghy classes, the 49er and Moth, in which he still competes and wins.

We in the U.S. still seem to follow the adage that yachts are for men, dinghies are for children (and girls don’t sail, but at least that's waning). Most of us learn on low-performance dinghies (Optimist, Sunfish, 420, etc), then if we continue sailing, we “graduate" to big boats. Relative to the large size of our population, this helps to explain our poor showing at the Olympics, which is currently a competition of dinghies and cats. It also explains the near absence of American sailors in the America’s Cup, even on the “American" boat. Having left dinghy sailing as youth, most of us never advanced to a truly high-performance boat as an adult. So not only do many American sailors find it hard to relate to the sailboats, they also don’t recognize the skills of those who sail them. While big boat sailing requires many talents and skills, fast-twitch athleticism is not one of them. Even though it’s the size of a yacht, the AC50 demands the skills of a small boat sailor more than those of a yachtsman. We'd best get used to it. The technology isn't going away.
Your problem I think is purely "low performance dinghies" nothing to hold a young persons attention, Check out the Australian cherubs, almost 50/50 split of young guys and girls, girls frequently in the points, most at an age when in the USA they quit or move to leadbellies, never to sail fast again. Fast exciting, relatively inexpensive,look cool, definitely not what dad or grandpa sailed. Or any Aussie Skate,VS , 12,16 Or 18ft skiff, although,cost and gender definitely change here.

 

Curious2

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Actually LOTS of "low performance dinghies" hold a young person's attention. The Cherub is a fantastic boat (we've been into them for two generations) but outside of a few places like Belmont far more young Australians sail boats like Lasers.  Most young sailors have voted with their feet, and it would take a pretty extreme sort of arrogance for some outsider to claim that most of them don't know what boat they should be sailing. The kids who DO want to sail as fast as possible, of course, won't sail anything but a kite.

Most of the young sailors I know are happy to sail what their dads and grand-dads (and mums and grandmas) sail, because they like their parents. If kids don't want to sail what dad sailed ('cause mums never sail?) then they are not going to sail any of the classes you mention, which are quite old these days. Obviously, of course, young people ARE happy to sail what their parents did - look at how many champions sailed the same types as their parents did.

 
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Team_GBR

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The Medal Race
Top dinghy sailors dominating the AC is nothing new. For instance, John Bertrand won an olympic medal in his finn before winning the Americas cup. Russell Coutts won gold in the finn. I think the OP's comments tell us more about the issues in US sailing than anything about the AC.

 

fastyacht

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Top dinghy sailors dominating the AC is nothing new. For instance, John Bertrand won an olympic medal in his finn before winning the Americas cup. Russell Coutts won gold in the finn. I think the OP's comments tell us more about the issues in US sailing than anything about the AC.
Lowell North won the Star Worlds. Didn't Connor do the same? OK star not dinghy but almost. Ted Turner sailed the FD too. He even did an advertisement for an 18 foot catamaran once in the early 80s. So I guess it has been a transition for a long time. But yes the current crop--I noticed that too. Just looking at the resume of Spithill vs Burling, going into this match I thought, "no way in hell Oracle will hold onto this one."

 
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fastyacht

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Really? Are you saying if they swapped boats ETNZ would have still won? Jimmy has more than proven himself sailing foiling cats.
Yes, I am saying that. Spithill is a great sailor, but Burling is a freaking genius. And his instincts on the foils are better. Just look at the footage.

 
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Wavedancer II

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Yes, I am saying that. Spithill is a great sailor, but Burling is a freaking genius. And his instincts on the foils are better. Just look at the footage.
Burling has way more experience and successes as a dinghy sailor. Spithill's strength was supposed to be (!) starts and match racing. 

 

efrank

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Yes, I am saying that. Spithill is a great sailor, but Burling is a freaking genius. And his instincts on the foils are better. Just look at the footage.
Burling is a phenom, but I think any of the AC50 teams could have won with NZ's boat, given equal time on the water.  I say "teams" rather than helms because of the brilliant way the Kiwis divided the duties.

 
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