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 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 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. Get used to it. With this technology, dinghy sailors are here to stay.
 
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splat

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Unfortunately, one should never argue with stupid people as they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. What a load of bollocks this thread is.

 

Qman

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you would think that the american college system would breed strong sailing culture and results.  

 
It certainly does, but generally in low-performance boats such as the 420 and FJ. If that's mainly all you've sailed when you graduate at age 21-22, you're already well behind your counterparts in other parts of the world. 

 

TN_Kiwi

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dsolnick    I think your premise, "Until recently, the America’s Cup has been a match of Yachtsmen, not small-boat sailors." is nonsense. Go back and look at the types of boats that people like Bertrand, Conner, Jobson, Blackaller, Cayard, Coutts, etc, etc, were sailing before (and during and after) being AC helmsmen (at least since the time of the mid-50s when the 12m class was adopted) - they were all world class one-design small boat sailors (Etchell, Star, Finn, etc). it's in small boats that you learn the sailing fundamentals, that can then be applied to any size and type of racing sailboat. The current crop of AC helmsmen have followed the same path.

 
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Etchell, Star, and Finn are all low-performance boats, and only one is a dinghy. The best of the current crop has come from high-performance dinghies, such as the 49er and the Moth, which are far better training for the current America's Cup fleet. Note that even the Laser and Finn helm (Ainslie) has gone home because he was too slow, and the yachtsman Spithill is looking like he'll be going home empty-handed for the same reason. Based on the close races between Artemis and Emirates in the challenger finals, the 49er and Moth helms (Outteridge and Burling) look like they're the fastest out there. It's hard to believe that's happenstance.

 
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Dorado

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I agree. The immediacy of the input, feedback, and response required to sail a 49er, moth, eyedeen, or 5o5 (for us old farts) is exactly what's needed on a foiling AC boat.

I'll also put forth the notion that tactitians need to unlearn many of the lessons that keelboating taught them if they want to be successful in a foiler

 

Miffy

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The US doesn't really have a strong youth sailing program. As a Kiwi immigrant to the US, it seems to me that the social economics of sailing is very different here. 

Back in New Zealand you can come from humble origins and find yourself a boat to sail on and adults to crew with pretty easily. Mates will go sailing together and fool around. 

In the US, there are some areas where there's strong sailing clubs, but many kids with time on the water weren't really sailing. Just going on successful folks or grandparents boats while they're playing with an iPad.

I don't think dinghy sailors are different. They're just what younger good sailors compete at. Most young kids aren't going to be able to buy a yacht and assemble a crew for practice. 

Take all the classical AC sailors we know, provided they're not so old they can't stay on the boat, throw them in any competitive club event and they'll cream everyone without knowing the particulars of the locale. 

 
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TN_Kiwi

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The US doesn't really have a strong youth sailing program. As a Kiwi immigrant to the US, it seems to me that the social economics of sailing is very different here. 

Back in New Zealand you can come from humble origins and find yourself a boat to sail on and adults to crew with pretty easily. Mates will go sailing together and fool around. 

In the US, there are some areas where there's strong sailing clubs, but many kids with time on the water weren't really sailing. Just going on successful folks or grandparents boats while they're playing with an iPad.

I don't think dinghy sailors are different. They're just what younger good sailors compete at. Most young kids aren't going to be able to buy a yacht and assemble a crew for practice. 

Take all the classical AC sailors we know, provided they're not so old they can't stay on the boat, throw them in any competitive club event and they'll cream everyone without knowing the particulars of the locale. 
You're 100% right about the fundamental diff between youth sailing in the US and in New Zealand. In the US it's completely structured and programatic, with paid coaches getting in the act very early (incl Optis). As you said, sailing's done by kiwi kids for the plain fun of it, with their mates, and it's open to all (not just the blue blazer class). When I learned to sail at Kohi YC in Auckland, 3-4 of the the older P Class kids would sometimes pack a lunch and sail over to Rangitoto and back just for the fun of it - but, of course, they were racing each other the whole way too. And after school, when my friends and I were riding our bikes around, playing pick-up rugby and cricket at the park, etc, they'd trundle their boats down to the beach and go sailing instead. Several of those top local P Class kids became some of NZ's most famous sailors. When I bumped into them 10 years later, crewing on keelers in the Auckland fleet, they were already becoming world-known sailors in one design boats (OK Dingy, Finn, Cherub, etc.).

 
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MR.CLEAN

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You're grossly mistaken if you don't think any of those guys could go out and stick it to any high performance 'yachtsman' on a lead mine.
pete burling or Nath outerridge would not be doing the team any favors on a RC44 or an IACC boat.  i think they'd get too bored to concentrate.  

 

MR.CLEAN

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Etchell, Star, and Finn are all low-performance boats, and only one is a dinghy. The best of the current crop has come from high-performance dinghies, such as the 49er and the Moth, which are far better training for the current America's Cup fleet. Note that even the Laser and Finn helm (Ainslie) has gone home because he was too slow, and the yachtsman Spithill is looking like he'll be going home empty-handed for the same reason. Based on the close races between Artemis and Emirates in the challenger finals, the 49er and Moth helms (Outteridge and Burling) look like they're the fastest out there. It's hard to believe that's happenstance.
Notice: The consensus fastest two boats (AR and ETNZ) have something in common.  Drivers are both Moth world champs, 49er world champs, and olympic gold and silver medalists.  Nathan's won more moth worlds, but that's about the only resume difference.  Dean, Ben, and Jimmy - all regarded as some of the very top match racers in their mono days - ain't having so much luck.  

 
G

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If a kiwi kid wants to go sailing, there is nothing to stop them socially

 
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