Royal Banana Yachting Squadron bring match and team racing back in Italy
Young Italian sailor Rocco Attili explains how he and his Royal Banana Yachting Squadron crew mates are trying to relaunch match racing and team racing in Italy and beyond...
Take a group of competitive sailors, aged between 16 and 20, add a young and exuberant coach, put everything into a team race, where the goal is to win through tricky strategies and screams, and something new and exciting is born.
This is what happened back in 2013 with the creation of the Royal Banana Yachting Squadron (a.k.a. Rocco and Bianca Youth Sailing). The crew came from many different sailing disciplines, some from racing classic boats and dinghies, others from the offshore racing, but all with a common passion and desire to win.
Initially it was just a hobby but now the game has become more serious. The team started to get results, even some at an international level, and now the goal has changed. A real project has been created: to revive the team race and the match race - very similar disciplines - in Italy. But why? Why not move from a youth sailing discipline to an Olympic class as normally happens?
In Italy for some time it has been usual, from an early age, to aim for the Olympic classes, but if you plan to go to university or college, it is impossible to continue the life of a professional athlete so your career ends automatically. The athlete-student cannot co-exist. This is why this particular sailing discipline would be a huge advantage to all those who love the sport but also wish to continue their studies.
First there is no need to have your own boat with all the responsibilities and obligations, not to mention the considerable economic output, that comes with that. Sailing in this way can be affordable for any student whose only sponsors are probably their parents who, most probably also have to fund college tuition. Finally, it is not essential to train too frequently, which, due to the fact that many teams often consist of athletes who live in different cities, is a great advantage.
The match race is a discipline of noble historic origins which over time has become famous thanks to an event that we all know: the America's Cup. In Italy, after 2015, when Luna Rossa announced its withdrawal, the match race hardly exists anymore and the number of young people attracted to it is minimal. Few people participate in the youth leagues and, often, the championships are cancelled due to lack of interest.
As for the team race, the situation is a bit different as the circuits are limited everywhere, not only in Italy. In this case too, the participants see no future and the few races which exist are organised for their own means with no particular goal. Although team races are not very demanding from a technical point of view, they are very interesting from a tactical point of view. The group must be compact and coordinated components even when they are on different boats. Not to mention that for everyone, like those in team RBYS, the preparations involved in organising the dynamics of a winning team is exciting. “Team building" at this age also helps with a view to a future job.
The idea behind the RBYS project is to give students and young people the opportunity of continuing their sailing career in parallel with higher education and to promote ways of making this possible. The team participates in the 2K racing circuit which stages a team race organized in Italy and abroad.
Some also compete in a series of match races too. The idea is to involve as many people as possible in this project, to inspire the creation of new teams and to raise the national level to bridge the gap that exists between the few races that are organized at the moment and those of the standard of The America's Cup. To do this, visibility and knowledge about what RBYS does and their ideas must spread among sailors and beginners alike.