Adrian van der Wal Finds His Groove on Rikki RP42 Programme

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Adrian van der Wal Finds His Groove on the Rikki RP42 Programme

The RP/42 Rikki, with its stunning red hull, is gracing B dock at Nanny Cay Marina this week, preparing to compete in the 51st BVI Spring Regatta. It’s not just the red hull that lends a certain energy on board, it’s also the crew that owner Bruce Chafee chooses to sail with – largely a group of 20-somethings. Leading this group of young sailors is Adrian van der Wal who grew up in Jamestown, RI.

Van der Wal’s parents took him sailing as soon as he was big enough to be carried around and lashed onto a rail, so the story goes. He started sailing in prams at the Conanicut YC, Jamestown, RI when he was eight years old, then sailed in high school and college at Northeastern University. After graduating in 2022, he got involved running the Rikki programme. It’s been pretty much his full-time job since then.

“It’s a super fun programme, we have a lot of young people on the boat and I get to bring my friends sailing,” van der Wal, 24, smiled. “Bruce is great, and we have a really good vibe going on the boat.”

There’s often a sailing void for many high school and even college sailors after they are through with school sailing – unless you are lucky to live close to a vibrant sailing town like Newport, RI.  Van der Wal started sailing with Chafee in college, becoming more involved in the programme and eventually running the boat after graduating, so the transition from sailing dinghies to big keel boats was relatively easy for him once he got the opportunity to prove himself.

“We started sailing keel boats on weeknights around the buoys in Jamestown, Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound,” he commented. “In high school and college, the weeknight beer can racing is how we learned how to sail on keel boats. Its great youth development to get kids on boats in a casual setting – that’s sort of the steppingstone. Summer is when all the race boats come to Newport and it’s a transition to getting onto bigger and bigger boats. That was my process.”

Van der Wal’s friend Carina Becker, also 24 and sailing on Rikki this week, added, “Adrian went from a jib trimmer to running the boat to calling tactics. Being able to have a platform, and Rikki is such a good platform, and the opportunity and room to make mistakes and learn, is so important.”

Keeping a semblance of discipline as a 24-year-old racing on a boat crewed mainly by friends his age is probably the most challenging part for Adrian.

“It is by far the hardest part,” he laughed. “It comes down to having just great people on the boat who are super great sailors, and they know most of the time what to do, so I don’t have to say a whole lot or tell them how to do their jobs right, which is awesome. I’ve sailed with Carina who also sails on the TP52 Prospector programme, and I always learn so much when I sail on that boat. I try to bring that knowledge back to Rikki.”

Asked if he knows his way around a camera (after all, he is the son of renown nautical photographer Onne van der Wal), young van der Wal gave a broad smile and said, “I’ve actually been shooting a lot of film recently, old-fashioned! I’ve been shooting with the same camera that he took on the 1982 Whitbread Around the World race, not the very one but an Olympus LM1, I really like that sort of film look. I’m not interested in getting all fancy and digital, but it is something I enjoy doing on the side.”