The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup was settled for the first time in 2013 in San Francisco and became a big success. Teams of young athletes from all over the world competed simultaneously with the 34th America’s Cup and showed that there is no better place to be if you are looking to be seen and heard by the big teams.
From the Swedish Youth Challenge in 2013, Nils Åkervall and Andreas Axelsson both moved on to take spots in the Artemis Racing RC44 Youth Team, and are now looking at establishing connections and proving themselves to eventually be part of Artemis Racing in the America’s Cup. The Artemis Youth team (RC44) is mentored by Olympic champion, Fredrik Lööf, and provides a rare opportunity for young Swedes to keep the momentum going in a professional series from their start in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
Sweden is known in Olympic sailing circles for having a tradition of producing world class dinghy sailors. At the 2012 Olympics the country brought home a gold medal in the Star class and a bronze in the Laser. For the 2016 Olympics the country is qualified in six of 10 olympic classes, with a number of young Olympic hopefuls. With its strong Olympic history, the path to professional sailing has become a bit overshadowed, and the opportunities to progress in the sport have traditionally been very limited, something Artemis Racing is determined to help change.
The RC44 Artemis Racing Youth team is one of the initiatives undertaken by Artemis Racing principal, Torbjörn Törnqvist, who is pressing the importance of passing the team’s knowledge and experience onto the next generation of Swedish sailors. Törnqvist has previously stated that he doesn’t just want to win this edition of the America’s Cup, but the ultimate goal is to dominate the America’s Cup scene for the next decade. For that to be possible, there has to be Swedish sailors ready to fill the spots on the team, especially given a rising trend in the America’s Cup, where sailors are getting younger and younger.
”Developing the next generation of sailors has become a determining factor in the America’s Cup. The boats are very different from the traditional monohulls and the experience of the speed and the techniques needed to sail these boats, comes from the International Moth Class, the 49ers and the fast, flying modern catamarans. These young guys have the unique feeling needed to compete at the top of the sport” explains Fredrik Lööf.
Fredrik Lööf will also be one of the mentors for the Swedish team in the 2017 Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, who will be given the opportunity to train in a number of different boats, from dinghies to foiling catamarans in preparation for the event. The application process will take place in April-May 2016, and the trials will stretch over the summer and fall until the mentors and coaches feel a winning team has been selected.
Artemis Racing sailor, Luke Parkinson, who joined the team last summer after the Volvo Ocean Race, is a good example of the potential pathway for the young Swedes that will be selected to the project. Luke was part of Australia’s youth team during the 2013 Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, and after racing alongside Ian Walker in the Hong Kong to Vietnam and Sydney to Hobart races later that year, he was offered a place in the victorious Abu Dhabi crew, before joining the Swedish America’s Cup challenge.
For the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, that will be sailed in the AC45 Foiler, the America’s Cup World Series boats, the team has to fill a number of criteria. There is no certainty that the entire team will even be made up of pure sailors. There are aspects of the boat pointing to physical strength, cooperation and hard work being just as important as sailing experience. The boat is technologically very advanced and a background in engineering or boat building can be of high relevance, as well as a history of practicing another physically demanding sport. All athletes between 19-24 years of age that think they can make a difference on the boat and in the team are highly encouraged to apply.