An international championship of junior champions
Published on October 21st, 2014
by Laurie Fullerton
The Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup, now in its 12th year at Hamilton Bermuda, is known around the world as an international championship of junior champions. Running parallel to the penultimate event on the World Match Racing Tour, the Argo Group Gold Cup, while the seniors battle it out on Hamilton harbor, the Opti sailors take the race to the Great Sound where from Oct. 23-26 they race up to five races a day.
It’s a tough schedule for these young sailors that concludes with the final race during a ‘halftime’ break in the Finals Day of the Argo Group Gold Cup. They sail in front of a large spectator fleet on Hamilton Harbor.
One of the most unique aspects of the Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup is that young Optimist dinghy sailors from all over the world meet each other for four days of intensely competitive racing against each other and Bermuda’s best young competitors. As the week goes on they truly bond as international friends and fellow sailors who are often transformed by their experience. Because they stay with Bermuda families and are mentored by a great group of adult coaches and families, they blossom here and leave the island as not only seasoned competitors but also as happy youngsters. The warmth and hospitality of their Bermudian hosts clearly rubs off on them with memories for a lifetime.
This year, there are five regions represented in this event, North America, South America, Caribbean, Oceania and Europe and the young Optimist sailors come from many of the same countries that the Argo Group Gold Cup skippers represent. These young champions see their sailing heroes up close– including Francesco Bruni, Iain Percy, Nathan Outteridge, and Taylor Canfield on and off the water. The beauty of this combined junior and senior event is the adult sailors get to mentor the youthful talent of these Opti sailors and the youth teams clearly mature over the course of the week. They speak at press conferences, receive advice and encouragement from their heroes and are cheered on by the hundreds of spectators on the last race. Despite their emerging professionalism, they are still kids who love to have water fights or delight in getting autographs from the senior sailors.
“Thanks to the generosity of Renaissance Reinsurance, as organizers we are able to run a ‘boutique’ regatta that is totally unique in the world of Optimist sailing. Although on a small scale, the Junior Gold Cup brings the World to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club where a cultural and sporting experience can be shared,” said regatta organizer Dede Cooper.
This year, the fleet of 14 youths from around the world will feature such sailing talent as Britain’s Hayden Sewell, 12, who placed 7th overall in the British National Championships in the junior fleet. “I’m so excited, it’s going be awesome going to and sailing in Bermuda against some amazing optimist sailors from around the world and locally. It’s going to be great being there at the same time as so many top sailors too,” Sewell said in an earlier report.
“I’m so lucky that I have the support of the Royal London Yacht Club, the Isle of Wight Council talented athlete scheme, Crewsaver and my school, Christ the King which means I can go.”
The US Virgin Islands has always been well represented during the Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup and current World Match Racing Tour standout Taylor Canfield was one of the first US VI youngsters to attend the Junior Gold Cup as a youngster. This year will feature 12-year old Mateo DiBlasi from St. John, US VI. Mateo has been sailing since the age of 6 at St. Thomas Yacht Club and he was in Bermuda at the age of 10 for the 2013 Optinam and his team won 2nd place in Team Racing. Another Caribbean stand out is Rocco Falcone of the Antilles who also comes from a sailing family. In fact, Rocco Falcone’s brother, Shannon, sailed for Oracle in the America’s Cup.
Additionally, there are five females of the 14 including the 2014 Canadian Female Champion Theodora ‘Teddy’ Horangic, Alexandra Stalder of Italy who placed 4th in the IODA European Championships and Poland’s Julia Szmit, the first place Polish champion.
This year’s Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup coincides with the IODA World Championships being held in Argentina where the top five sailors from each country will be sailing. Most of the sailors invited to Junior Gold Cup had just missed qualifying for the Worlds and were happy to have this as an international championship level alternative.
Sailors who attend the European Championships may not attend the World Championship thus the fleet this year has many competitors from that regatta. All five girls competed in that Championship this year with four out of the five in the top 20. Five of the male competitors had two competitors finish in the top 10.
The Bermuda Worlds team will also be in Argentina during the Junior Gold Cup so Micah Thomas-Raynor, Adam Larson and Campbell Patton will be attempting to place as top Bermudian and to challenge the international sailors for the podium here in Bermuda.
“This is my 7th year running this regatta and every year I look forward to seeing the sailors arrive as strangers and leave Bermuda as friends, regardless of what happens on the water,” Cooper said.
Background: The Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup is sailed October 23-26 in conjunction with the Argo Gold Cup, Stage 6 of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. The juniors sail in Optimist dinghies, fleet racing for three days in Bermuda’s Great Sound and then sailing their final race during a halftime break in the Argo Group Gold Cup Finals. This is the 12th annual Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup.