2017-12-21 / News

Oakcliff providing talent pipeline to challenge for America’s Cup


An Oakcliff Sailing crew on Narragansett Bay during a New York Yacht Club regatta last season. The team will provide talent for the club’s challenge for the upcoming America’s Cup. 
OAKCLIFF SAILING An Oakcliff Sailing crew on Narragansett Bay during a New York Yacht Club regatta last season. The team will provide talent for the club’s challenge for the upcoming America’s Cup. OAKCLIFF SAILING The New York Yacht Club, which operates 2 miles east of Fort Wetherill at the Newport Harbour Court clubhouse, has welcomed another partner onboard its challenge for the 36th America’s Cup.

Bella Mente Quantum Racing, the team representing the historic club, will develop talent through Oakcliff Sailing, the Oyster Bay, N.Y., training center founded by Hunt Lawrence in 2010. The agreement is the campaign’s first step toward establishing an enduring legacy for American sailing.

“There are many talented sailors in the United States, but the sailing team is only a small percentage of the total workforce,” said skipper Terry Hutchinson, an 11-time world champion who will helm the Bella Mente Quantum boat.

The partnership will supply a reliable source of enthusiastic talent to fill roles, both on and off the water, that are necessary to successfully challenge for the Auld Mug. America’s Cup veteran Dawn Riley, Oakcliff’s executive director, called Hutchinson soon after he was named skipper.

“I think Oakcliff can help you,” she told him.

“Let’s make this happen,” Hutchinson replied.

Oakcliff sailors admitted into the sapling program will spend next summer at the Long Island campus to learn rigging, engine maintenance, sailmaking, boat handling, tactics, nutrition and fitness. At the end of the season, the applicants will be evaluated by Riley. She will then refer candidates to Hutchinson for an interview.

“Oakcliff is building American leaders through sailing,” she said. “Feeding those graduates into an America’s Cup program has always been a part of the plan.”

Bella Mente Quantum Racing already is drawing from Oakcliff’s existing pool of talented young sailors. Robyn Lesh, a 2016 sapling graduate who manages the center’s high-performance fleet, was hired by the syndicate designers led by Marcelino Botin. She will join the Spanish team overseas in March. The Washington state native graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2016 with a degree in ocean engineering.

“It feels absolutely stunning,” Lesh said. “The practical knowledge I’ve gained over the last year will be essential as we try to design the fastest boat for the 36th America’s Cup.”

The application window is open for Oakcliff’s sapling program. The center expects the roster to be set by early spring. Financial aid is available. Applications can be found online at Oakcliff’s website.

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