Little Sister to Debut at Pan Am Games
Published on June 10th, 2015
The ‘Batmobile’ of sailing, with its sleek wing design and extreme speed, appeared for the first time on the Olympic stage at the 2008 Beijing Games. The Men’s double-handed high performance skiff, the 49er, has grown immensely popular over the years, inspiring the addition of the women’s skiff for inclusion in 2016. The boat uses a double trapeze, with wings and the hull sitting low to the water, displaying the raw essence of speed and athleticism while in race mode.
While the men’s 49er has yet to make its first appearance on to the Pan American Games stage, the sister boat, the 49erFX will make its skiff debut as the 10th sailing medal with the Pan Am’s come to Canada this July. The FX consists of the same hull design, including wings and foils, however the rig and sails were re-designed to power a lighter crew, the women’s skiff.
Representing Canada in the 49erFX class will be Erin Rafuse and Danielle Boyd. Rafuse, a 26-year old skipper from Halifax, and Boyd, a 25-year old crewman from Kingston, are using Toronto 2015 as a stepping stone towards their ultimate goal: qualifying for Rio 2016.
The pair started sailing at a young age, both being provoked by their fathers, who were heavily involved in the sport. After competing in solo classes, the pair came together in the newly adopted Olympic 49erFX event. Rafuse and Boyd are now balancing their Olympic campaign while simultaneously pursuing psychology degrees: Boyd at Dalhousie University and Rafuse at Carleton University.
The pair are competing amid 26 boats this week at ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland (June 10-14), posting a 7-1-8 on day one to sit currently in sixth overall. With the very focused Pan Am fleets of only 6 boats, Rafuse and Boyd have set themselves up nicely for a potential medal finish at Toronto 2015.
The 49er class has revolutionized sailing from a fan & media-friendly perspective in the last four years, being the first to trial theater-style racing at world cup sailing events. This form of racing includes shorter courses closer to shore to provide fans and broadcast media with a live experience displaying the intensity and skill of 49er sailing.
Sponsorship and broadcast rights have been a constant struggle for the international federation due to the inaccessibility of the sport on the field of play. The skiff class have been very proactive in engaging their sport with the fans, strapping go-pro cameras on the boats for live tracking, live broadcasting and commentary.
The Pan Am sailing events will be held on several race courses on Lake Ontario, including a downtown course on Toronto Harbour in the shadow of the CN Tower. The FX is scheduled to compete starting on July 12th with medal races taking place July 18 & 19.