By Will Alloway, Land Rover BAR Academy Skipper
December 2017 marked the end of the first cycle for the Land Rover BAR Academy. Looking back over the last two years, it’s amazing to see how much the whole team has progressed. From the early trial days in the gym and cold winter training in Weymouth on the Nacra 20’s, to the glamour of the sailing conditions in Bermuda during the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup – it’s fair to say it’s been an incredible journey.
We kicked off the campaign in 2016 with our first GC32 event, at the Extreme Sailing Series, Cardiff. We went straight in at the deep end, with the whole team blowing after the first day with some pretty fruity conditions. This full-on experience for our first ever event really bonded everyone and pushed us towards future events as a close-knit team.
The Extreme Sailing Series demands great crew work, and over our first season together we continued to bond and develop as a team, a crucial characteristic for sailing the boat well. Our training and boat knowledge came together at the last event of the 2016 ESS season in Sydney, Australia; an event that saw near perfect conditions for hydrofoil sailing, in the beautiful Sydney Harbour.
The first day saw everyone pull together and put down some great results in challenging conditions. One race saw us leading into the windward mark up on the foil when we stuck the bows in. It resulted in a pretty extreme capsize just off Shark Island. It would have been easy for our heads to drop, but with the help of coach Walsh and the team bond that had been built over the previous 12 months we were back out on the water for the next day – and winning races.
We went into 2017 full of confidence from Sydney, and this resulted in a great year for the Land Rover BAR Academy with podium results on the Extreme Sailing Series and of course the cherry on the cake was winning the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in Bermuda.
Our first podium in the Extreme Sailing Series came in Qingdao, China which was the penultimate event before we headed to Bermuda. After a couple of practice races and an evening acclimatising to the local culture, we were set for a great event. Four days of intense racing saw us at the top of the leader board going into the last two races.
In the penultimate race we had a collision, taking on water at a rapid rate the boat started to sink. There was some quick thinking to get the electric pumps installed to stop the boat going under. Despite the crash, the event saw us finish in 2nd place overall.
Bermuda – what a cracker! Sun, sea and sailing, it simply doesn’t get better! We were lucky enough to get six days of training on the AC45F catamaran prior to the event with expert advice from the senior sailors to help us gain an advantage. The boats are incredible. Having never sailed a yacht with a wing before it was impressive to see the amount of power the boats can handle and how fast they accelerate. By the time it came to race, we were pretty locked in with the boat handling and ready to compete.
Four days of tough racing saw the Land Rover BAR Academy secure the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, a solid victory which could not have been achieved without immense support from the whole team at Land Rover BAR.
If you ever get the chance, go to Bermuda; the beaches are incredible, for us they were a great place to go for some R&R after long training days on the water. Every morning I would run over to Smuggler’s Cove to do my warm up, before heading back to the house to fuel up and go to the base.
There is no doubt that 2018 will be exciting for the Land Rover BAR Academy with new trialists joining the program and current sailors moving on to exciting new opportunities. It’s a huge honour for me to represent the team as the new skipper, with Leigh McMillan coming in from the senior team to helm the GC32 and a more consistent line up for each event we will be looking to push for podium positions in the Extreme Sailing Series 2018.
Follow the progress of the team in these blogs and on social media: @landroverbar