Open 60 Program

The Open 60 Class is another pinnacle of the sport of sailing. These boats are designed to push the envelope for man and machine. Every four years, as with the Olympics, the Vendée Globe Ocean Race is the ultimate competition for the Open 60 Class, a solo non-stop unassisted around the world race taking about 3 months.

Program Details

Wind Athletes has received a commitment from a donor to sponsor this exciting program which will provide some of Canada’s best sailors with an opportunity to expand their sailing experience into an area that is only rarely available to our elite sailors. It is a valuable opportunity to both cross-train and to improve their sailing resumes for those with an eye on a career as professional sailors.

A small group of Canadian athletes and coaches have been selected to go to New Zealand in February and March to learn how to sail this awesome machine. Those competing in the Olympic Classes will use this trip as an opportunity to train with their New Zealand counterparts at a time when the sailing conditions in the Southern Hemisphere will be ideal as we continue to shiver in the cold back in Canada.

An artistic rendering of an IMOCA Open 60 boat An artistic rendering of an IMOCA Open 60 boat

They will be under the careful guidance of experienced New Zealanders, Dan Slater, Edward Smythe and Allan West. Dan is New Zealand’s 2008 Olympic Representative in the Finn Class and is a former member of Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup Program. Dan is ideally suited to help these dinghy and small boat sailors make the transition to one of the most technically advanced and awesomely powerful sailing crafts ever designed. Edward is also a highly experienced big boat sailor and America’s Cup team mate of Dan Allan has worked on many successful Open 60 Programs in the past including Ellen McArthur’s second place finish in 2001 and Mike Golding’s 3rd place in 2005 in the Vendee Globe Ocean Race.

We are privileged to have the assistance of these 3 very capable gentlemen to get our Canadian athletes up to speed on sailing this powerful and exciting boat.

We plan to capture the high points of this program on video and make a documentary that will be available to the public as a DVD and perhaps to have it broadcast on television. Stay tuned for more details.

Athletes' Bios

Nikola Girke

Nikola Girke / RS:X (Women’s Windsurfer)

Nikola Girke, a two-time Canadian Olympian, is among the few athletes who have made the transition from one sport to another and to have competed in two different events at the Olympic Games. At the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Nikola crewed on the two person 470 sailboat, finishing 13th. In 2005, Nikola switched to RSX windsurfing, launching another — yet completely different — Olympic campaign for Beijing 2008. A respectable 17th place finish at the 2008 Olympic Games inspired Nikola to continue in pursuit of bringing home an Olympic Medal for Canada at the London 2012 Olympic Games in women's windsurfing.

Kevin Stittle

Kevin Stittle / RS:X (Men’s Windsurfer)

Kevin is also a highly accomplished snowboarder and snowboarding instructor. He is the Program Coordinator for ICARUS Shreducation, which is an elite Snowboarding School. Kevin’s hobby is “pimping out cars”. This is all part of his dedication to detail that has also made him successful in sailing. Kevin is now competing in the RS:X Windsurfing Class with his eyes on a berth on the 2012 Canadian Olympic Sailing Team.

Vitals - Born: July 18 1979 / Resides: Collingwood, Ontario / Height: 5'9" / Weigh: 68kgs / Sailing Accomplishments: 2nd 2008 Tornado World Championships, 4th 2008 Olympic Games Beijing China (Tornado).

Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh / Laser

Mike Leigh is a Vancouver native who has been a member of the Canadian Sailing Team since 2001 and represented Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games. He has won numerous regattas including national, international, and world championships. Mike is currently training full time in effort to win the 2012 Olympic Games.

Nathan Baron

Nathan Baron / Open 650 aka Transat 650

Nathan started sailing in offshore yachts at the age of eleven and has sailed almost 10,000 nautical miles on the Great Lakes. He is currently preparing to compete in the Mini-Transat in 2012. For more information about this exciting challenge visit the Minimus Sailing Team website.

Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke / Finn

Richard, an Olympic veteran in the Finn class, has a wealth of knowledge and experience in almost every form of keel-boat. His many accomplishments include 2 bronze medals and 1 silver medal at Finn World Championships, 2009 Melges 24 World Champion, 2008 Pacific Cup 1st to finish overall and double handed, 2007 Transpac Double handed 1st to finish and corrected Champion and 2007 Rolex Big Boat 1st place Melges 32.

Coaches' Bios

Dan Slater

Dan Slater

Dan is an accomplished dinghy sailor having competed for New Zealand in the 2008 Olympic Games in the Finn Dinghy. He is also a Veteran America’s Cup Sailor with Team New Zealand.

Edward Smith

Edward Smyth

Ed is a 3 time America's cup sailor. Most recently with BMW oracle racing in the 32nd America's cup as navigator, he has also competed on the world match racing circuit as a trimmer/bowman. His offshore career includes winning the Rolex Sydney hobart, and Fastnet race's. Ed's Olympic sailng include's winning the 1999 49er class world championship and pre olympics. He is currently working as a freelance professional, competing in Europe, Asia and the US on IRC, melges and Jboat circuits, with the goal of continuing his America's cup career.

Rob Fox

Rob Fox

Rob has been a full-time Olympic sailing coach and program manager since 2007, after retiring from competitive sailing in the 49er skiff class. He has since worked with a number of different amateur and elite athletes and associations, most recently with the Johansson/Stittle Olympic Campaign in the Tornado Class catamaran - helping the team capture a World Championship Silver Medal and a 4th Place finish at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Currently working with Nikola Girke as she campaigns the RSX Olympic windsurfer for 2012, Rob looks forward to getting out of the coach boat and back to his sailing roots with the Wind Athletes Canada Open 60 program.

Allen West

Allan West

The early years were spent sailing at the local yacht club and at the tough West Coast beaches of New Zealand where, as a member of Muriwai Surf Club he paddled surf skis, surf canoes and rowed in 4 man surf boats to a Gold medal in the NZ Champs, culminating in three seasons as a professional Lifeguard.

While involved in the beach scene, Allan also rode off road motorcycles in NZ Enduro and Motocross events. Honda noticed the talented rider and sponsored Allan: he returned the favour winning the NZ Enduro Championship and sealed a sponsorship deal with Honda which would last 13 years.

After succeeding in New Zealand Allan moved to Australia and continued his off road racing with Honda Australia; winning numerous State titles and the Australian Open Championship. He also represented Australia at the World Championships in Czechoslovakia and later in Germany. View all...