Tauranga sailing clubs have seen an “upsurge” in young sailors keen to follow in the footsteps of local America’s Cup Team NZ helmsman Peter Burling.
Tauranga Yacht & Power Boat Club sailing coordinator Jess McDowell said they had experienced a “huge increase” in interest from Tauranga kids since the AmCup kicked off.
“The kids are just getting into it and loving it,” she said.
Sailing was proving most popular with eight to nine-year-olds, who were joining the club “thick and fast”.
“The build-up of the America’s Cup has helped.When you see a New Zealand team at the top – it is always motivating.”
Youth at the club were inspired by Burling, who had a similar starting-out story to many junior sailors in Tauranga.
“He was just a kid who started out with our Learn To Sail and our club racing. Just like the kids do here.
“They find him very relatable, and they think if he can do it then why can’t we. Peter is a cool down-to-earth guy.”
According to McDowell, Learn To Sail class numbers had increased by 30 per cent among 7-15-year-olds compared to this time last year.
Bay of Plenty Sailing Academy Trust chairman Roger Clark said there had been an “upsurge” in high school-level sailing over the past six weeks.
We knew the America’s Cup would create more interest, we have had to double the number of boats available,” he said.
“Involvement from schools dropped off last year during the pandemic, so it is great that we are now working hard to meet demand. Colleges as far as Katikati are getting involved.”
Clark said 21 of the trust’s 29 various boats were being used regularly.
“As a trust, we have all the equipment and resources. So more young people being interested in it makes it all worthwhile.”
Anchor AIMS Games media liaison Jamie Troughton said the number of sailing competitors had jumped every year from just over 60 in 2015 to 100 at the last games – and registrations had just opened for the 2021 games.
“We’re expecting another rise in numbers,” he said.
“It took a while for us to host sailing here, but it was a no-brainer in the end with the incredible strength of sailing in Tauranga. Having these incredible world-class sailors with such a high profile absolutely helps junior sailing numbers in Tauranga.”
Tauranga Boys’ College 420 class sailing team manager Herman Rooseboom said the team members are all “pretty chuffed” that Burling and the team have done it again.
“He is such a big part of sailing in Tauranga.”
And team captain 16-year-old Robbie Shirley agrees, saying local success stories like Burling help motivate young sailors.
“The club is really good at acknowledging everyone in Tauranga who is good at sailing, they are all good role models for us.”
Shirley also coaches part-time at the Tauranga Yacht & Power Boat Club.
Nine-year-old sailor Max McDowell said Burling is his biggest inspiration.
“He’s someone I know, and it’s cool he does the America’s Cup.”
Heather Burling on her son's career
Heather Burling said the passion for sailing at the club helped contribute to her son’s success.
Her son Peter Burling joined the club as a child with his older brother Scott.
“We turned up at the club knowing very little, and it was just an amazing bunch of people who were so willing to help – because everyone loved sailing.
“They have just been so supportive of him the whole way through the crazy, crazy journey.
“They have a passion for other people coming in and loving the sport.
Burling said she was relieved the AmCup is all over.
“It is nice it’s all done. We are proud of the whole team.
“One of the amazing things about watching Team New Zealand down there is that you are with all the families and all the kids. The amount of emotional energy that everyone has put into this over years and years – it’s a whole different feeling.”
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