One of the revolutionary concepts of this 34th America's Cup is to nurture the next generation of America’s Cup sailors. Last year more than half a dozen nations competed in The America’s Cup. This year will likely have only four nations who can afford this competition. But between the Challenger’s Cup and the Champion’s Cup, the event will groom sailors for future Cups.
All 2012 AC45 catamarans have been given to the event authority to promote this competition into the 35th cycle and far beyond. All of the identical boats have been rebranded and repainted identically. Countries have been invited to send teams of young sailors to qualify to race one of the twelve boats in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup (RBYAC). Teams representing the US and Sweden have already qualified.
Qualifying races were held here in San Francisco in two Selection Series of six countries each. The first (Feb. 9-15) consisted of teams from Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, and South Africa. The second (Feb. 18-24), from Argentina, Great Britain, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland. Two of Sweden’s Artemis Youth Team and their coach visited San Francisco last week. They watched the qualifying races to assess potential competitors. The Swedes will be up against intense competition in the RBYAC.
Their coach, Björn Johansson, from the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS) will pick the remaining eight teammates by April 10th. He anticipates that there will be at least one woman among the Top 10 (one striking difference from America’s Cup professionals). Of these first two, Charlie (Kalle) Ekberg will be Helmsman; Niclas Düring will be Tactician. These two veterans of Olympic campaigns have won many medals. Because they have both mastered 49er-class monohulls, transferring to AC45s will be familiar. Once the other eight have been chosen, the coach will choose from among them all, the most competitive and cohesive team.
Coach Johansson feels that too often young Swedish sailors have a difficult time getting recognized and entering major competitions. Either you knew all the right people or you didn’t move up. Johansson’s goal is to assure that all Swedes know their top young sailors based on merit. When the America’s Cup announced the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup competitions, the coach was grateful that the best young Swedish sailors would be featured. This competition would provide them greater reputations to vault them into steeper challenges and elite competitions.

Encouraging all young sailors
The coach wants to encourage all young sailors to pursue their racing dreams. He must build both individual and team spirit, encouraging all young sailors to stretch themselves and to grow into their dreams. Björn intends to groom Kalle and Niclas to run the entire RBYAC campaign concluding here in half a year.
All selected young international teams, will return to their host countries for several months of tough workouts, strategizing, and racing. However, they will be racing on whatever catamarans they have there. The AC45s will remain in San Francisco. Not until they return will all young teams be able to practice with the actual boats for a week before their competition.
While quickly assembling the team on returning to Sweden, Björn and his team will begin their training circuit, racing against other Swedish boats while practicing maneuvers, developing team strategy and their tactics. The young Swedes may be able to study the videos of last year’s Artemis sailors on these AC45s and then chat with their mentors. The RBYAC competition will be fleet racing only, which should make for another beautiful week of racing on San Francisco Bay during the first week of September — between the Vuitton Challenger Cup (at the end of August) and the America’s Cup Challenge (during the second week of September). The young Swedes are honored to be representing Sweden and KSSS.
How did Kalle and Niclas reach such pre-eminence in their early 20s? Sweden has two sailing high schools in Stockholm, whose curricula include both academics and competitive sailing expertise. Admission is very rigorous: Kalle was but one of the seven of his age admitted one year for the three year degree. Kalle attended one school; Niclas, the other. They competed against each other, but they also were crewmates on a 29er during a world campaign, pursuing their individual Olympic dreams. Now together again, they will represent Sweden and the Royal Swedish Yacht Club.
We all wish the team the best of luck. As experienced 49ers, they may be assured of a warm welcome in the San Francisco Bay Area.


By Ted Olsson, San Francisco
Exclusive to Nordstjernan from Artemis hangar