Two Bermuda Young Sailors Azhai Smith and Christopher Raymond concluded competing in the Open BIC Sailing event in New Zealand.
It was in 2014 that Bermuda hosted the Open Bic North American Championships in the Hamilton Harbor, with the pair guest of Sir Russell Coutts in New Zealand.
A five-time winner of the America’s Cup, Olympic gold medallist and 2017 America’s Cup CEO Sir Russell Coutts was invited by the Wanaka Yacht Club to introduce a new race at the club’s annual New Year Regatta, a leg of the O’Pen Bic Junior National Circuit, and to reintroduce the "fun" element to junior sailing.
Thirty-six O’Pen Bic boats competed in the O’Pen Bic races around Lake Wanaka and the young sailors including Smith and Ramond took part in coaching sessions with Sir Russell. Former Team New Zealand sailor and Lake Wanaka Yacht Club coach Barry McKay said that six months ago, the club did not have one O’Pen Bic boat, but it introduced them as a way to "reinvigorate youth sailing" and make it more fun.
The winner of the inaugural Wanaka Yacht Club O’Pen Bic championship was Nichola Sanders (17), of Wanaka, second place went to Oli Gilmore (16), of Dunedin, and Sir Russell’s son Mattias Coutts (11), of Auckland, came third.
At the awards ceremony last night, the Wanaka Yacht Club also announced winners of O’Pen Bic scholarships. Coach Barry McKay said the scholarships were sponsored by local Wanaka businesses and would give the recipients the use of an O’Pen Bic boat for a year and the opportunity to travel to other South Island regattas to compete.
"This is a new concept in getting kids out on the water without having to buy a boat. Our measure of success is not whether we produce an Olympic champion or an elite sportsperson but how many kids we can retain in the sport, and the scholarship should go some way towards doing that," he said.