The 2015 Youth Sailing World Championships drew to a close on Sunday (3 January) with the British Youth Sailing Team’s Emma Wilson and Daniel Whiteley winning silver and bronze medals respectively.
Fourteen young British sailors travelled out to Langkawi, Malaysia in mid-December to compete in the prestigious Youth Sailing World Championships, with over 425 sailors competing from 76 different nations.
Windier than expected conditions greeted sailors as they rigged their boats on day one, and 29er sailors Courtney Bilbrough and Harriet Ward took full advantage of the blustery 25 knot breeze to win their first ever Youth Worlds race.
Following a consistent series, not placing outside the top four, Emma Wilson went into the final day of competition with a medal already in her pocket, but the colour was still to be determined. She was in with a shot of gold but silver was her realistic aim.
Wilson left the beach knowing exactly what she needed to do. and winning the final race in spectacular fashion confirmed the silver medal for the Christchurch sailor: “I have been pretty consistent throughout the competition so that helped me a lot going into the final day, I knew I could get silver and possibly even gold but that was a really big push so I just went to sail my own race.
“I had a really good start and managed to pump over the Chinese athlete and then just went and won it.”
At just 16, Wilson has a number of opportunities in the future to come back and upgrade her silver to gold: “My aim was to medal so I’m really pleased with silver and I have two more years to do the ISAFs so maybe I can improve.”
With five different classes competing at the Youth Sailing Worlds, it is one of the only times that young sailors from different classes and countries can mix, something Wilson enjoyed: “To me it’s a really cool event with all the different sailors, normally I just do RS:X events and so we know each other but it’s nice to see other people and make new friends.”
Brother Daniel Wilson finished eighth in the boys’ RS:X class.
Welsh sailor Daniel Whiteley came storming out of the blocks on the final day in the Laser Radial class, knowing that a medal was just within his grasp. Rounding the first mark at the top end of the fleet he could almost taste the medal and sailed to the front to win the race and eventually take the bronze.
“Today started out really well actually, I started the day in fifth and ended it in third so I got a medal which is what I came here to do and I’m really happy about that,”
“I went out and won the race so I think that helped as everything fell into place with the Finnish boy and the American so I’m really pleased with how the day went.”
Whiteley has been battling it out with some of the top young Laser Radial sailors from around the world, an experience he has learned a lot from: “The competition is really fierce. It’s the top sailors from all the nations and the leaderboard really shows it. Everyone was really close on points although obviously Alistair was a long way ahead because he was exceptional, other than him it was really, really tough.
“The Youth Worlds is great, I really enjoyed it. I get to see all my friends from different classes. I used to sail a 420 and I get to see all the old faces from different nations and my own,” concluded Whiteley.
Fellow Laser Radial sailor Hanna Brant (Oxford SC) finished her event in 21st with a fifth placed finish on the final day.
“I had a really good week in the end, it was quite hard work but I have learned a lot of lessons and I am happy with how it went overall.” commented Brant.
In the 29er class, Courtney Bilbrough (HISC) and Harriet Ward (HISC) succeeded in their goal of a top five finish, just ten points away from the podium positions.
Ward explained: “It was a pretty good week overall, we finished fifth which we are really pleased with as that was our aim and we improved a lot over the week with our sailing and results getting better.”
RYA Youth Racing Manager, Mark Nicholls, echoed Ward’s words: “They have had a good regatta and should be pleased with themselves.
“They have been in that top ball-park all week and have made some good decisions. A couple of decisions didn’t go quite their way, but they have had a good result and done really well at this level.”
George Tardrew (HISC) and Freddie Simes (Bewl) finished their week in 25th.
420 sailors Jenny Cropley (Royal Lymington YC) and Emma Baker (Weir Wood) had an up and down week, starting well and ending strongly but had a wobble in the middle few races.
Finishing 15th was not what they wanted, admitted Cropley: “It’s been a pretty bad week in terms of how we sailed, we weren’t really used to the offshore really shifty conditions that we got here although it has been really fun to have the strong wind.
However, they will take forward everything they have learned for their next big international event, continued Cropley: “I feel like I have learned a lot and if we were faced with these conditions again we would do a lot better.”
In the boys’ 420 class Max Clapp (Royal Southern YC) and Ross Banham (Royal Southern YC) pulled themselves up from a difficult start to finish 16th overall.
All sailors in the SL16 catamaran class had a tough event with equipment arriving late meaning that sailing was delayed. British sailors James King (Brightlingsea) and Jack Butters (Parkstone) were aiming for gold fleet however they just missed the cut and finished second overall in the silver fleet.
Great Britain finished fourth in the Nations Trophy – a strong performance from the young British sailors, said Nicholls: “Fourth on the Nations Trophy table is a huge improvement on last year and we were actually very close to beating the French. We had some strong days and some more difficult ones.
“With a relatively inexperienced team, the coaches did a fantastic job looking after the sailors and they should be proud of their work. They have no doubt contributed to the medals but also to every sailor’s learning and improvement.”
Full results available on the Youth Sailing World Championship website
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