18th July 2007
Thanks to Volvo, the athletes and coaches at this year’s Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championships were able to enjoy a special dinner on July 16th in place to honour the International Sailing Federation’s 100th Anniversary. This centenary celebration was held at the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour restaurant on the evening prior to the Lay Day.
Asides from great food, attendees were treated to a slide show of pictures taken so far during the competition and “100 year” trivia led by emcee Fiona Kidd (ISAF Youth World Sailing Subcommittee Chair).
And then…all you have to do is imagine the scene: Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, Kingston, Canada. Two hundred and twenty kids aged between 14 and 18, competing at the Volvo Youth ISAF World Championship, are gathered together for supper and then handed a kit of parts and told to design and build a boat in 15 minutes. Uproar!
But first, ahead of the main event and between the main course and pudding, Ken Dool, the Canadian Olympic coach, and, for the last Volvo Ocean Race, the sailing coach for the Spanish entry movistar, takes centre stage. The room goes silent as Ken describes what it is like to sail a Volvo Open 70 and explains how many 29er spinnakers it would take to make one as big as the one PUMA is flying on the cover of the latest Life at the Extreme magazine.
With the volume turned right up, the video Ken shows of the Volvo boats crashing through waves leaves the kids wide-eyed. Especially when they are told that top Volvo Ocean Race sailors like Stu Bannatyne (GBR), Richard Clarke (CAN) and Chris Dixon (NZL) cut their teeth at the Volvo ISAF Youth Worlds.
Then Jim Saltonstall, the ISAF Youth Trust Coach, takes the microphone and suddenly the room is alive as the model boat kits are dragged from their bags and everyone takes up the Blow Boat Challenge. Boats of all shapes and sizes are materializing, with names like The Black Pearl and Brasil 1. The Nordic teams produce Viking ships. The Volvo Ocean Race press team produces a canting keel and dagger-board version using paper clips and mysteriously shrouds the appendages in a dark blue table napkin.
Everyone is standing on the tables and chairs in spite of being told not to. There is a scrum. Each of the 50 nations competing in the ‘official’ event has made a model and everyone gathers round the two ‘gutters’ which are filled with water, ready for the racing. Jim is commentating on the design and explains that the boats will be raced against each other two at a time, with a team member crouching down and blowing his or her team’s boat down the gutter. No use of hands is allowed.
The Volvo Ocean Race’s canting keel version is hopelessly outclassed by a far more sophisticated version.
The school buses, which have arrived to take the athletes back to their accommodation a mile or so from the venue, at St Lawrence College, are ignored and kept waiting as the competition hots up and semi-finals are run. Jim is getting excited, counting down to the start in his distinctive accent. Eventually, Australia is declared the winner, that the athletes board the bus and peace returns as Portsmouth Harbour is quickly deserted.
The evening finished off with a very competitive Holt Blow Boat Challenge. Holt gratefully provided 75 “model boat” kits to sailors who –with great concentration- attempted to build “the fastest” boat which they would then “puff” down one of the two Holt “gutter tracks”. After great excitement and a tie breaking race, the 1st place glory went to Team Australia.
Thanks again to Volvo for sponsoring this special dinner, and to Holt for provided the kits and tracks for the Holt Blow Boat Challenge!