Typically the world’s most talented and upcoming sailors cut their teeth in the Olympic Games but not so with Taylor Canfield. Instead, he chose the America’s Cup discipline of match racing to make his mark. In 2013 at the tender age of 24, Canfield joined an exclusive club including Russell Coutts, Chris Dickson, Peter Gilmour, James Spithill, Ben Ainslie and Dean Barker, when he was crowned ISAF Match Racing World Champion – one of the youngest sailors ever to claim this title.
Canfield spent his childhood on the sea, coming from the Caribbean island of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands where the warm water and the brisk trade winds are perfect for watersports. There he fell fully under the spell of the island’s greatest racing sailor, Peter Holmberg. At the 1988 Olympic Games in Korea, Holmberg won silver in the Finn class, the US Virgin Island’s first and, to date, only Olympic medal. Holmberg progressed to a successful career in match racing, ultimately serving as helmsman for Oracle BMW Racing in the 2003 America’s Cup and subsequently for the winning Alinghi team in 2007.
“The first time I got to see him match racing was in Bermuda at the Argo Group Gold Cup,” says Canfield, who was 10 at the time. “I was sailing the Junior Gold Cup and it was unbelievable to see a fellow countryman on that stage doing his thing against all the top guys in the world. He coached us a bit in Optimists growing up.”
At Boston College, Canfield was able to get stuck into the hotly-‐contested Inter-‐Collegiate Sailing Association events, winning five national championships -‐ two in fleet racing, two in team racing and one in match racing.
Since graduating, Canfield has focussed purely on the match racing circuit, the same discipline used in sailing’s pinnacle inshore racing event, the America’s Cup. By 2012, he was on to a roll, winning the prestigious Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda (13 years after Holmberg) and then the Tour’s grand finale, the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia, where he and his team claimed the US$100,000 top prize. The following year, his first full campaign on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, he and the team won overall and in doing so, became the 2013 ISAF Match Racing World Champions.
One of the secrets to Canfield’s success during his World Championship winning year was that he was match racing more than anyone. At the time, he was Sailing Director at the Chicago Match Race Centre, one of the world’s leading hubs for this discipline of the sport. Here, he not only got to race but gained first-‐hand experience of coaching and umpiring. The CMR also helped fund his early forays to international match racing events.
His success has also been down to having a regular crew. His US One match racing team comprises bowman Hayden Goodrick, veteran tactician Rod Dawson, who is 20 years his senior, and trimmers Mike Rehe, Dan Morris and Brian Janney. “We have had a lot of success together over the past three years. What we have learned about each other and how we work together within the team is very special,” he says.
Now that Canfield has a professional sailing team in US One, which he runs with Goodrick, he has the ultimate goal of ending up in an America’s Cup team. With the Cup going multihull, his move into the M32 has been the next logical step to gaining experience racing on two hulls.
“Last winter my eyes were opened to another world of sailing,” Canfield recalls. “I was offered the opportunity to train against the members of the Nacra 17 US Sailing Team for several weeks and also to go for a ride on Mathias Rahm’s M32. After that I was hooked!”
“Obviously we have been watching what is going on in the world of sailing and the catamaran movement,” he says, referring to the America’s Cup and the Extreme Sailing Series and other multihull circuits that have sprung up subsequently. “We have our team at a point where we need to carry our momentum forward and make sure we stay current. It’s an exciting time for our team to be moving into faster, more action-‐orientated sailing. The M32 Series North America is our next stop…”
Canfield says he has been bowled over by the M32’s performance. “It is incredible! Simple, smooth, and exhilarating. This boat is perfect for sailing on the edge at high speed. Downwind at 18+ knots has never seemed so relaxing and effortless…until the next manoeuvre!”
The M32 Series North America being on his doorstep is also attractive and to be part of it he looks forward to enjoying some of the best sailing in the world. “It will provide amazing stadium racing and bring new fans to the sport in the US. A Nascar-‐like sailing circuit in the US -‐ you can’t get any better than that!”
In the build-‐up to the M32 Series North America, Canfield will be training in Florida with his team, preparing the boat and his crew, in particular their fitness. “These boats are incredibly physical and we need to make sure our team is in peak shape for the first event.”