Island teen takes second at worlds
A young sailor with local connections made a big splash in an international sailing regatta held on Narragansett Bay in last month. Henry Marshall, 14, finished second in the Byte CII World Championship despite the fact that he had only been sailing the boat for a couple of months.
Henry is a freshman at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Mass. He spends his summers living aboard a Swan 46 moored at the Jamestown Boat Yard. The youngster began sailing when he was 5 years old, and lived aboard a boat full time when his family sailed around the Caribbean and the Mediterranean seas.
“That inspired me to keep doing it,” Henry said. “I fell in love with the sport.”
When he was 8 years old, Henry began racing Optimists in a yacht club program. He continued to sail Optis up until May when he found himself growing too big for the boats. Henry spoke to an Olympic director who told him about a program that offered a path to the Youth Olympic Games to be held in China in 2014. That’s when Henry decided to make the jump to the Byte CII.
The North American builder for the Byte CII is Zim Sailing, which is located in Warren. It was there that Henry had a chance to try the boat. Eventually his parents bought one for him.
The Byte CII is a 12-foot-long monohull with a beam of 4 feet, 3 inches. The singlehanded boat weighs 100 pounds and carries a fully battened sail that is affixed to a two-piece carbon-fiber mast. The boat is often thought of as a natural successor to the Optimist in a young sailor’s path because of its more technical nature.
“It’s sort of a modern version of the Laser Radial,” Henry said. “It’s a little more technical. It’s got a fully battened mainsail which makes it go faster with a better sail shape.”
Henry first sailed a Byte in early June. He had been aware of the upcoming world championship, but didn’t begin to focus on it until July. The regatta was conducted by Sail Newport and ran for five days, with one day being a preworld championship with three races that counted as one. The idea was to get everyone on the water in the boats and make sure there were no problems going forward.
Competitors from 21 nations in a coed fleet of about 40 boats sailed in the regatta. There were 13 races overall, with Henry scoring two wins. Toward the end of the regatta he became less concerned with winning races and focused on putting boats between himself and a Hungarian racer named Jonatan Vadnai, who proved to be Henry’s toughest competition.
“He was really fast in the heavier breeze,” Henry said. “I had a bit of an edge on him in the lighter stuff. He’s got about 20 pounds on me, and he’s been sailing the boat longer than I have. He’s a really good sailor.”
Cristian Noe is Henry’s coach. Noe, who is from Argentina, has been coaching sailors at the international and Olympic level for 15 years. Two years ago he was offered a post at a local sailing foundation and moved to the United States. Henry was among his students and an intensive weeklong training program on Narragansett Bay was conducted just before the Byte CII worlds.
“I have a fantastic feeling, plus a strong friendship with Henry,” Noe said. “As an athlete, Henry has tremendous strength compared with his body mass. This plus the determination on what he wants makes him a potential winner.”
Since he has won championships of his own, Noe knows what it means to Henry. Noe said it will take a few months for the young sailor to realize what he has accomplished. Once he does, Noe said, he will be grateful to all of the people who have helped him from the beginning of his sailing career.
“Henry as a person is a great guy who is focused on his studies and respectful of his family,” Noe said. “As a sailor, I see him as one of the next promises of U.S. Sailing. He just needs to find the tool to organize him and make him lethal.”
While the second-place trophy was nice, the real prize was that his second-place finish qualified the United States to send a Byte CII sailor to next year’s Youth Olympics. The top five male and female sailors in the regatta qualified for their countries. Henry himself has not yet qualified. He will have the opportunity at a regatta for American sailors early next year. Henry likes his chances.
“I think I have a pretty good chance,” he said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I was the only U.S. competitor at the worlds, and I think I performed pretty well, so if I can just keep going the way I’m going now, hopefully I can secure that spot.”
Henry said going to the Youth Olympics has been his dream for a year and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get there. One way or another, Henry plans to continue his sailing career.
“It’s all just a staircase,” he said. “You go one step at a time. I’m just trying to look to the near future and do as well as I can in the events I’m competing in, and I’ll take it from there. I love the sport and I want to keep competing for as long as I can.”