It was a race to remember for Cambridge sailor Micah Wilkinson at the 2017 Coastal Classic yacht race, winning the event as part of the Frank Racing team and racing alongside sailing legend Jimmy Spithill.
Aiming to put together an elite racing crew, having won the event for 7 of the last 8 years, Simon Hull of Frank Racing invited the Team Oracle USA skipper to join their boat this year, and invited Wilkinson along in the process. He’d met Wilkinson earlier this year when the 21-year-old finished second in the Youth America’s Cup.
“I got to know Simon Hull during that time, and he invited me on board for the Coastal Classic,” explained Wilkinson, who will be doing a few more races with Hull this season. “And he somehow manged to convince Jimmy to come sailing as well, it was awesome.”
Spithill was the boat’s tactician for the race while Wilkinson was the bowman, and Hull the skipper. “It was my first proper race on a big boat like that, there was 8 people on board, so it was a pretty steep learning curve,” said Wilkinson.
Racing from Auckland to the Bay of Islands, a steady breeze had carried the Frank Racing crew for the first 100 nautical miles of the race, until they hit a notorious dead-wind zone just off Cape Brett.
The chances of the team beating the race record of 5 hours 13 minutes set by Frank Racing in 2015 was slipping away.
Then, Wilkinson and Spithill detected a small amount of wind, and turned the boat in a jibe manoeuvre to help catch the breeze. They soon picked up speed and drifted their way into Russell and crossed the finish line with a time of 6 hours, 4 minutes and 44 seconds.
“We kind of both spotted it (the breeze), mostly Jimmy, I can’t take too much credit for it,” a modest Micah explained. “(Spithill) is just so level headed, he’s done so much sailing that nothing seems to bother him at all. The biggest learning for me watching him was that nothing phases him, he doesn’t rush into anything, he doesn’t make decisions based on emotions, he’s very factual and level headed… He’s an awesome guy.
“It was really cool to be invited to take part, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Simon Hull and the Frank Racing team for the opportunity… I’d love to do it again and make it two for two next year.”