Team Young American Wins the Newport to Bermuda Race
Team Young American from American Yacht Club, Rye, NY, sailing High Noon, has crushed it in the Newport to Bermuda Race, one of North America’s most prestigious blue water events.
As of the last report they have finished the race and were the second boat to finish overall, out of a fleet of approximately 120 boats.
This currently places them first in their division and first in corrected time in Saint David’s Lighthouse Division, which was last won by American member Vincent Learson on Thunderbird in 1967.
In addition they are in line to win the inaugural Stephens Brothers Youth Division Prize, which is awarded to the best finishing youth boat. In order to qualify at least fifty percent of the crew must be between the ages of fourteen to twenty three.
The Juniors Sailing are: Collin Alexander, Carina Becker, Brooks Daley, Will McKeige, Hector McKemey, Richard O’Leary, and Madelyn Ploch. The crew also had three adults with them: Fleet Captain Rob Alexander, Peter Becker, and Guillermo Altoielel.
High Noon is a 41 foot boat, which was designed by fellow member Bill Tripp, and was chartered for the event.
The Young American Junior Big Boat program was started three years ago by Rob Alexander and Peter Becker to compliment the big boat efforts of our JAYC program and to provide a platform for those juniors interested in off shore racing, that would allow them to jump start their learning experiences and to take it to another level. This race had extreme conditions with winds topping at 30 knots and heavy sea conditions at time for the team, so the skills they acquired served them well.
Just competing in this event was testament enough for the success of the program, but these results are absolutely outstanding. Our hats are off to Team Young American.
Youth Team Topples Bermuda Race Fleet
Sailing Scuttlebutt, June 21st, 2016
After the 100-foot Comanche crushed the Newport Bermuda Race record by almost five hours, finishing June 19, it has taken the next boat over two more days to reach Bermuda. While Comanche’s finish position was predicted, few could say the same about the runner-up.
High Noon, at 41 feet, is fully 59 feet shorter than Comanche and tens of feet shorter than many other of the 142 starters. Yet High Noon was the second boat to finish today at 09:07:05 am EDT, and did so with a 10-person crew, seven of which are teenagers between ages 15 and 18.
The story of High Noon 2016 is about new ideas in training young sailors. For decades they sailed only small boats. Enter Peter Becker, who sails out of American Yacht Cub, in Rye, New York. He was an eager 15-year-old when he sailed his first Newport Bermuda Race. “I was the kid on the boat, up on the bow changing sails,” he recalls. Since then he’s done 16 more Bermuda Races and a race from New York to Barcelona, Spain.
Four years ago his teenage children were getting interested in ocean racing, and he came up with a new approach: a unique training program at his club that came to be called the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team.
He put youngsters in a J/105 racing in local regattas under the tutelage of himself and other big-boat sailors. It worked so well that for the 2016 Newport Bermuda Race, the US Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation loaned High Noon to his program.
“This Bermuda Race will be the culmination of at least three years of work by these juniors,” said Becker. “First they did overnight distance races, then weekend races, and then they looked for opportunities to sail offshore.”
The young sailors underwent hands-on safety training, and some helped deliver boats home after ocean races. They are committed to the project, and so are their mentors.
But it’s not all about winning, said Becker. “The kids are resonating with this. They love big boats. It’s challenging, it’s social, and it’s really inspiring. You get out there and you see the stars overhead and you think, ‘the land is really far away.’”
Two of those kids were the watch officer’s children, Colin Alexander and Carina Becker. Split-second sail handling was crucial in the race’s constantly fluctuating weather, with frequent changes of headsails and spinnakers. When it was light they went with the Code Zero when sailing close-hauled. When the wind came up, they favored a double-headsail rig for power reaching, sometimes tying in a reef.
They were prepared for heavy weather – each of the young sailors wore a scopolamine seasick patch – but got little of it in the race when, Becker said, the predicted storm “didn’t have much in it.” He credited their strategy of tacking downwind at aggressive angles for the big gains they made in this largely off-wind race, especially as they neared Bermuda.
Preparing for anything, the crew organized in three watches: three or four sailors (young and older) standing watch, another group standing by on deck, and the third resting below. They practiced everything; when the rudder snagged some Gulf weed, the crew knew what to do, most of them heeling the boat to one side while a shipmate leaned over the windward side and poked the weed away with a batten.
Like any boat that’s pushed hard in the ocean for several days, High Noon suffered some damage, but it was minor—a broken block here, some torn sails there—and with no injuries.
One goal was to do well, which they did in a way that became instantly famous. Another was to make the youngsters responsible leaders. “Our job,” Becker said of himself and Rob Alexander, the two parents, “is to help with tactics navigation, and sail selection.” He added, “I’m trying to give these kids the same passion and experience I was exposed to when I was young and sailing with older sailors.”
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