Heard about the troubles plaguing this year’s America’s Cup? Well, three San Diego youth sailors and their team are part of a bright spot in what is shaping up to be a tough year for the oldest active trophy in sports. Larry Ellison’s over-the-top design of the official America’s Cup vessels has a disastrous safety record and a $10 million price tag, which didn’t do much to attract competitors to build and bring them to San Francisco to compete. Only three teams are racing, which isn’t helping bring out crowds. Louis Vuitton asked for a partial refund of its $10 million sponsorship.
But Ellison did at least one thing right this year: He greenlit a youth competition leading up to the main race for the first time in the sport’s history. The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup boasts much more of the traditional spirit of the regatta. Nine teams on the water at the same time (a "fleet race"), racing the same exact boats, real America’s Cup 45-foot catamarans (smaller than the 72s raced in the main race). The idea is that the best sailors, not the best boats, win. With so many boats flying across the bay, the tension and potential for close calls should be palpable. Three San Diego natives are headlining the American team (Jake LaDow, Jake Reynolds, and Nevin Snow, all San Diego Yacht Clubbers currently in college), racing against teams from nine other countries. The program is to be an international feeder for the sport, attracting and training the best young sailors in the world. The teams had to do their own fundraising and compete for a bid to this first-ever Youth Cup. "We’ve been sailing together since we were seven and eight years old, and have been best friends since," says LaDow. "It’s definitely an exciting and special opportunity that we have been given."