Smith set for title defence in New Zealand

  • Huge potential: Ahzai Smith, left, and Christopher Raymond both topped their respective fleets at the O’pen Bic National Championships in New Zealand last year

    Huge potential: Ahzai Smith, left, and Christopher Raymond both topped their respective fleets at the O’pen Bic National Championships in New Zealand last year

Promising sailor Ahzai Smith will make the long trek to New Zealand next month to defend his title at the O’pen Bic National Championships.

“Ahzai Smith is going back to New Zealand to compete in the Nationals,” confirmed Alejandra Mato, personal assistant of Sir Russell Coutts, the chief executive of the America’s Cup Event Authority for the 35th America’s Cup.

The Warwick Academy student underlined his potential after winning this year’s championship in January.

He was one of two local youngsters achieving success at the event, as compatriot Christopher Raymond topped the silver fleet.

The pair are products of the America’s Cup Endeavour Programme and were chosen for the trip because of their attendance record and impressive performances at the Bermuda National Sailing Championships.

Smith topped the championship fleet while Mount Saint Agnes student Raymond was the top performer in the green fleet.

Smith has been sailing since he was 8 and has been invited back to defend his title by Coutts, the five-times America’s Cup winner.

Blessed with sporting genes as the grandson of Erskine “Choe” Smith, the former Devonshire Rec fast bowler and Devonshire Colts midfielder, and former Warwick off spinner Robert Trew, the youngster has lofty ambitions in the sport.

“I would like to compete in the America’s Cup and to represent Bermuda at the Olympics,” Smith told The Royal Gazette upon his return from New Zealand in January.

The O’pen Bic National Championships will be held from January 18 to 20 and are being organised by the Wakatipu Yacht Club in conjunction with the New Zealand O’pen Bic Association.

Developed by Vitali Design and launched in 2006, the O’pen Bic is a single-handed one-design sailboat designed for younger sailors and is an international class recognised by the International Sailing Federation.

• Bermuda’s Emily Nagel and Team AkzoNobel are back on dry land after completing the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town, South Africa, to Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday.

The Dutch syndicate were the last of the seven-boat fleet to complete the 6,500 nautical-mile race through the daunting Southern Ocean in 17 days, 11 hours, 24 minutes and 45 seconds.

It was a frustrating end to a difficult leg that saw the team fall several hundred miles behind the rest of the fleet after damaging their mast track during a gybe in heavy weather conditions.

The third leg of the race around the world was won by overall leaders MAPFRE, with Dongfeng Race Team taking second and Vestas 11th Hour Racing third.

The next leg, from Melbourne to Hong Kong, starts on January 2.

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Published Dec 29, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 29, 2017 at 12:01 pm)

Smith set for title defence in New Zealand

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