The wise man of New Zealand sailing


 
The Daily Sail catches up with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's Harold Bennett
New Zealanders, be it in the former of pseudo-Swiss or pseudo American or the real thing, skippered the two boats in not only the America's Cup, but the Louis Vuitton finals too, raising the perennial question - why is does New Zealand produce so many top yachtsmen? Part of the reason is down to the training many of these top sailors have received. Early successes have come in the youth program run by New Zealand's national sailing body, Yachting New Zealand (formerly the New Zealand Yachting Federation). Now there is the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's Youth program. Central to both of these is Harold Bennett, who has become better known in recent weeks as the Chief race officer for the America's Cup. Bennett was National Youth Coach for in New Zealand in the 1970s. Under his tuition at this stage were the likes of Chris Dickson. They achieved considerable success with Dickson winning the World Youth Championships for three consecutive years from 1978-80, followed in 1981 by one Russell Coutts. “I had Russell when I was National Youth Coach for the country,” recalls Bennett of his star pupil. “There was him, Murray Jones, Chris Dickson, and I ran with those guys offshore for 10 years doing Youth Championships. A lot of those guys became household names.” Since then the youth program has changed a lot and it doesn’t operate how it used to, says Bennett. Bennett was a trainer to the KZ7 team in the 1987 America’s Cup, and coming back from this joined the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron to set up their Youth Keelboat program, similar to the Volvo-backed affair recently set up by the RYA. "We had so many good sailors in this country, but no one understood about long term campaigns and we felt the ideal

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