With the RYA Youth National Championships now just two days away, over 220 double-handed sailors are preparing to take to the waters of Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour at this top end youth racing regatta (4-10 April).
Double-handed teams will race in three classes – the 420, 29er and Spitfire –, and will be competing to be crowned the 2015 RYA Youth National Champion, seeking selection to Squads and international regatta team places, as well as gaining some early season race practice.
Here we provide the lowdown on some of the names to watch in the double-handed fleets at this year’s premier UK youth regatta.
Max Clapp (Royal Southern YC) and Ross Banham (Bewl Valley SC) have been leading the 420 fleet since they paired up at the end of last season. Clapp previously sailed with Joe Burns (Spinnaker SC) and Banham has transitioned from the Laser class.
Throughout the winter the young sailors have been balancing sailing with their school work, and have also headed abroad for racing experience. They have enjoyed considerable success, finishing second at the Palamos Christmas Regatta.
More recently, a string of single figure results at the Inland Championships confirms their place as the front runners for the Youth Nationals title next week. However, they are not complacent about the number of quality of sailors they’ll face within the 420 class.
“We have done a couple of International events to give us much needed time on the water.” Commented Clapp.
“Everyone on the start line at the Youth Nationals is your rival. You should never get complacent about the competition, the standard in the 420 fleet is extremely high and that’s what makes it a great fleet to race in.”
In the girls’ fleet, Sarah Norbury (South Staffordshire SC) and Mari Davies (Pwllheli SC) come into the Youth Nationals with a wealth of summer international racing experience. The 2014 GBR ISAF Youth World Championship representatives and Junior European bronze medallists not only plan to race against the girls, but also compete with the boys on equal footing. Finishing fourth overall last year and as first girls, they aim to go one higher and finish in the top three alongside the boys.
To achieve this, consistency is the key, Norbury explains: “This is always a tough competition because everybody wants to win and over a week, it's consistency that matters. There is always pressure in every event but we try not to let it affect our performance.”
Norbury and Davies’ dominance, however, is not set in stone – the challenge from young rivals Isabel Davies (Itchenor) and Gemma Keers (Itchenor) should not be underestimated, with the pair having finished in pole position at the recent Inland Championships.
Dan Venables (Sutton) and Patrick Keech (Sutton) will be going for gold in the 29er class when racing kicks off on Monday. The event favourites won the UK Winter Championships in January and after a long winter of training now focus their attention on a Youth Nationals medal.
“For the upcoming Youth Nationals we are aiming to finish on the podium. We are also aiming to finish first male boat. It will be good to race the rest of the fleet at a five day event after a long sustained period of winter training.” Explained Keech.
However, at the 29er Grand Prix in Rutland, Venables and Keech didn’t sail to their expected form, finishing seventh. Taking advantage of the opportunity were 16-year-olds James Grummett (Burwain SC) and Daniel Budden (Burwain SC). The strong wind specialists won three of the four races sailed, and will be hoping to be in the medal mix after finishing 11th at the 2014 Youth Nationals.
Venables and Keech’s training partners Rowan Edwards (Pwllheli SC) and Daniel Blight (Port Dinorwic SC) are also on the ‘ones to watch’ list. Bronze medallists at last year’s event, Inland Champions and a fifth at the recent Eurocup will fill the pair from Anglesey with confidence as they go into the event next week.
Mimi El-Khazindar (Royal Lymington YC) is one of the most experienced 29er sailors in the fleet. In 2014 she finished 11th at the 29er Worlds in Cork and is confident in all conditions around the race course. Teaming up with new crew, Emma Loveridge (Royal Lymington YC), at the end of last season, the female pairing have an impressive list of results under their collective belt. Finishing seventh at the 2014 Palamos Christmas Race and fifth at the Eurocup in February, they top the ladies’ fleet.
“Emma and I train every chance we get. In training we pinpoint key areas to work on with our coach and focus, focus, focus,” said El-Khazindar.
“Our goal for the event is to race each race at the top of our game. We have trained hard for this event and we absolutely can't wait!”
Twelve boats will compete in the Spitfire multihull class this year – a record entry for the RYA Youth Nationals. The racing will be a full family affair with four sets of siblings competing.
William Smith, 14-years-old, will head to Monday’s start line with older sister Megan. The siblings from Grafham Water are best known for their light wind sailing and have been winning races at the Spitfire training camps in Datchet.
Eliza and Augustus Cox (Whitstable YC) are another new sister and brother pairing for the Youth Nationals. Younger brother Augustus previously was a rugby player, but took to the water one day and never looked back.
The Johnson sisters, Lotte and Becki (Hill Head SC), are the only all-female crew taking on the Spitfire. They first stepped into the boat at the 2014 Youth Nationals and since then have worked extremely hard and will be looking for a consistent series.
Our final brother act are not sailing in the same boat, but are instead rivals. Oliver and James King (Brightlingsea SC) partnered up at the 2014 event but now plan to tackle the regatta with separate crews. Oliver King has come back to the class after a short break to sail with Tilly Chester.
James King is crewing for Eddie Bridle, and the pair is in the running for a medal and an all-important EUROSAF Youth Europeans spot. Also at the top of their game and pushing for the medals are Alex Philpott and Jess D’arcy.
Sam Barker with new crew Victoria Akhurst will have it all to prove. Barker is a local to the WPNSA venue and as defending champion, his expectations will be high.
“The Youth Nationals is going to be a test for all the teams. We have done some weekend regattas but this is the first five day event of the year. The challenge will be consistency,” explained Paul Wakelin, Spitfire coach.
RYA Double-handed Pathway Manager Roy McCubbin added: “I am very excited to be getting out on the water next week to watch what will no doubt be some close racing amongst all of the fleets. The sailors have been training hard over the winter and for most this is a primary regatta on their calendars.”
Event registration and equipment inspection opens on Saturday 4 April and racing starts for all classes on Monday 6 April through to Friday 10 April at WPNSA.
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 Imogen Stanley/RYA 2/4/2015 14:30
Photo © Paul Wyeth/RYA