The first day of racing for the 2016 RYA Youth Nationals Championships kicks off in just three days on Monday 4 April and sailors are beginning to arrive at the Welsh National Sailing Academy, Plas Heli.
The 325 sailors will be racing for Youth National Championship glory as well as in front of a royal observer, HRH The Princess Royal who will be attending the Championships on Friday 8 April.
Dan Atherton (Gurnard) and Matt Viney (Cardiff Bay) currently lead the 420 World and European Selection Series after finishing fourth at the Inland Championships in March.
The RYA Youth Nationals are the third and final event in the Series and is an important event Viney explained: “The Youth Nationals is essentially the biggest British youth event of the year so it’s definitely an important one. It's also counting towards about half of our selection series for worlds and euros so we will no doubt put everything into it.
“To be honest I'm not really feeling the pressure that much, there's a number of boats who have been sailing well recently who all have a good chance of winning so it's just a matter of taking every race as it comes and trying to keep up our consistency in the series rather than worrying about the outcome too soon.”
However Atherton will be keeping his eyes on a number of sailors in the 37-boat fleet: “Our main competition in the fleet will most probably be James Clemetson and Will Birch-Tomlinson along with Robbie King and Marcus Tressler.”
Clemetson (TBSC) and Birch-Tomlinson (HISC) finished sixth at the Inlands three places ahead of King and Tressler (Warsash) in ninth.
Jenny Cropley (Royal Lymington YC) and Emma Baker (Weir Wood) won the 420 Inland Championships ahead of the boys and other girls. Last summer they won silver at the EUROSAF Youth European Championships as well as attending the Youth Sailing World Championships in December.
“Winning the Inlands was exciting because it showed that our winter training has paid off,” said Cropley.
“It definitely gives us more confidence going into to the Youths because we know that we can do it despite our dire performance at the Spring Championships.”
Cropley and Baker finished a disappointing 14th at the Spring Championships on the 12-13 March in Torquay.
The class will be hotly contested, with some of the younger sailors coming through but Cropley is not worried: “Hopefully, our number of years sailing the 420 will give us an advantage over the younger, less-experienced sailors, particularly if the wind gets up because we should be able to handle the boat better!
“However, the new sailors are shaping up to be very good and there will definitely be stiff competition there from the younger sailors,” concluded Cropley.
Vita Heathcote and Milly Boyle won the Spring Series after only one winter in the boat and will be chasing their heels as well as Isabel Davies and Gemma Keers (Itchenor).
In the boys’ 29er Bobby Hewitt and Harvey Martin (Leigh and Lowton SC) are one of the front runners, last year they finished third and won the recent 29er Grand Prix on 19-20 March at Marconi Sailing Club so Hewitt is confident about this year’s chances: “Although there were a few top boats missing from the Grand Prix I feel if we sail our best at the Youth Nationals and put in some consistent racing we have a good shot at winning.”
“I feel some pressure but only because I want to do well,” Martin explained.
“It’s an important event for us as selection for the summer youth squad and British Youth Sailing Team are up for grabs. We want to do our best and hope the winter training has paid off.”
29er European silver medalists Crispin Beaumont and Tom Darling (HISC) have also been training hard, they just competed at the 29er French Nationals finishing eighth in a 101-boat fleet.
Phoebe Connellan (Middle Nene SC) and Sophie Otter (Grafham Water) finished top girls at the 29er Grand Prix but don’t feel the heat said Otter: “We aren't putting any pressure on ourselves and trying to stay chilled as this is when we perform best. The Youth Nationals are pretty important due to selections but ultimately it is process regatta ready for the summer.”
Their confidence is high admitted Connellan: “We feel confident in our teamwork and sailing ability which gives us the opportunity to do well. We aim to consolidate what we have been working on over the winter and putting them into racing situations.”
Hannah Bristow and Emily Covell (Leigh and Lowton) will be a pair to watch as the week develops.
Jack Butters and James King (Parkstone) partnered up following last year’s RYA Youth National Championships and qualified for the Youth Sailing World Championships in December, since then they have been growing from strength to strength as a team and will be the team to watch.
However, they will face fierce competition from Alex Philpott (Frensham Pond) and Jess Darcy (Datchet Water SC) who finished fourth at the 2015 edition.
Event registration and equipment inspection opens on Saturday 2 April and racing starts for all classes on Monday 4 April through to Friday 8 April at the Welsh National Sailing Academy, Plas Heli.
For further information please visit the RYA Youth National Championships website. You can follow the event build up and see the action unfold on the British Youth Sailing Team Facebook page and on Twitter at @RYAyouthracing. Share your preparations and comments with us using #RYAYouths.
Article Author RYA 1/4/2016 08:36
Photo © Paul Wyeth