The 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships has been declared open in a ceremony that focussed on tradition and youth in Auckland, New Zealand.
With the theme of ‘youth welcoming youth’ running throughout, the 389 sailors from 65 nations were welcomed to New Zealand with energy and culture at the ANZ Viaduct Event Centre in downtown Auckland.
Olympic gold medallist Blair Tuke led the parade of nations out of Silo Park and into Wynward Quarter with the sailors waving their flags high, the route lined with onlookers from the local bars and restaurants. Following the parade there were three Maori challenges laid down to Tuke and the competing sailors. Tuke duly accepted the challenges on behalf of every sailor.
In a break from tradition where an elder of the Maori tribe would lay down the challenge – the Wero, to find out if the visitors come in peace or in war, a younger member of the tribe – Ko Nga Matatahi, was this time given the honour to ensure that the youth were front and centre in every aspect.
An event in New Zealand would not be complete without the world famous Haka, and the Youth Worlds duly obliged with the Kapa Haka teenagers performing the iconic tribal war dance to greet the incoming sailors. It is not the first time the Kapa Haka teenagers have been involved in the sailing world as many have attended the Learn to Sail course at the Royal Akarana Club.
Sailors from the five classes were introduced before the mixing of the waters, a Youth Worlds tradition, where sea water from each country, brought by the sailors, is mixed and later poured in to the sea. In Auckland’s twist, and in keeping with the theme, the waters were mixed in a P class boat, synonymous with youth sailing in New Zealand, called ‘Black Magic’ – the name of the successful America’s Cup challenge in 1995.
The sailors, representatives and volunteers were welcomed in to the Events Centre by Kiwi sailors Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie and the speeches were delivered by Yachting New Zealand CEO, David Abercrombie, and World Sailing Vice-President Jan Dawson.
Aleh remembered the late Paul Elvstrom and passed on his sentiments of respect and honour in sailing. Aleh encouraged the sailors to embrace friendship at the event and take heed of the Elvstrom’s most famous quote, ‘you haven’t won the race, if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors.’
Abercrombie and Dawson thanked the sponsors, Aon and Volvo, and all the boat manufacturers that have made the event possible – Maclaren, Nacra Racing, Nautivela, Neil Pryde and Ovington before Dawson declared the event opening with the raising of the World Sailing flag.
Just before the sailors could enjoy dinner that would close proceedings they were treated to a mixture of Maori and contemporary dancing in an upbeat performance from three Auckland teens in a fun and frantic finale.
Attention will now turn to the first day of racing which is scheduled to start at 09:55 local time on Friday 16 December. Racing continues through to 20 December 2016 where nine Youth Sailing World Champions will be crowned.
By Richard Aspland – World Sailing