49erFX debut at Toronto 2015

49erFX debut at Toronto 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - Kingston, ON

The ‘Batmobile’ of sailing, with its sleek wing design and extreme speed, appeared for the first time on the Olympic stage at the 2008 Beijing Games. The Men’s double-handed high performance skiff, the 49er, has grown immensely popular over the years, inspiring the addition of the women’s skiff for inclusion in 2016. The boat uses a double trapeze, with wings and the hull sitting low to the water, displaying the raw essence of speed and athleticism while in race mode.

While the men’s 49er has yet to make it’s first appearance on to the Pan Am stage, the sister boat, the 49erFX will make it’s skiff debut as the 10th sailing medal at Pan Am’s this coming July. The FX consists of the same hull design, including wings and foils, however the rig and sails were re-designed to power a lighter crew, the women’s skiff.

Erin Rafuse and Danielle Boyd will be the only two Canadian sailors to compete in the 49erFX class at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. Rafuse, a 26-year old skipper from Halifax, and Boyd, a 25-year old crew from Kingston, are using Toronto 2015 as a stepping stone towards their ultimate goal: qualifying for Rio 2016.

The pair similarly started sailing at a young age, both being provoked by their fathers, who were heavily involved in the sport. In fact, Danielle’s father, Jeff Boyd, has competed in many Pan Am Trials. His Lightning team competed at the 1979 Pan Am Games, which he unfortunately missed out on due to illness. After sitting on the fence about competing in the Toronto 2015 trials, he decided, with a heavy heart, that “it just might be time to hang it up,” says Boyd. “Helping reach this decision is certainly easier knowing that our family will be well-represented. (Danielle and Erin) qualified in the 49erFX class and for them it might just be the start of their Pan Am story.

Rafuse and Boyd sailed competitively while simultaneously pursuing psychology degrees, Boyd at Dalhousie University, and Rafuse at Carleton University. Perhaps the similarities between the two caused them to gravitate towards each other, as the pair sought each other out in early 2013. They were both looking to abandon their solo classes to begin an Olympic campaign in the newly adopted Olympic event: the 49erFX. It was a natural fit.

Unlike the complexity of the sport, Rafuse and Boyd’s daily routines are simple: eat, sleep, sail. The duo’s intense training regime has allowed them to win a national title, as well as claim 16th at the most recent World Cup in France. With the very focused Pan Am fleets of only 6 boats, Rafuse and Boyd have set themselves up nicely for a potential medal finish at Toronto 2015.

The 49er class has revolutionized sailing from a fan & media-friendly perspective in the last four years, being the first to trial theater-style racing at world cup sailing events. This form of racing includes shorter courses closer to shore to provide fans and broadcast media with a live experience displaying the intensity and skill of 49er sailing. Sponsorship and broadcast rights have been a constant struggle for the international federation due to the inaccessibility of the sport on the field of play. The skiff class have been very proactive in engaging their sport with the fans, strapping go-pro cameras on the boats for live tracking, live broadcasting and commentary. 

The Pan Am sailing events will be held on several race courses on Lake Ontario, including a downtown course on Toronto Harbour in the shadow of the CN Tower. The FX is scheduled to compete starting on July 12th with medal races taking place July 18 & 19. See you there!