With racing at the RYA Youth National Championships now just three days away, single-handed sailors are preparing to take to the waters of Hayling Island to compete against the country’s top sailors in four classes – Laser, Laser Radial, RS:X and Techno 7.8.
Aiming for glory in the 23-boat Laser class is Podium Potential Pathway sailor Sam Whaley, who is looking to upgrade his 2016 silver medal. Whaley has been combining training with senior international events in the run to the Youth Nationals.
“The Youths always has a great atmosphere and provides close racing,” describes Whaley.
“I’ve been doing some senior events in the run up to Youths, such as Princess Sofia in Palma. I’m looking to take what I’ve learnt around wind shifts and positioning compared to other boats and develop these forward in a competitive and close racing environment.”
Whaley knows he has some tough competition in the rest of the fleet: “My fellow team members Jack Cookson and Dan Whiteley will no doubt be my closest rivals. If the wind is light then Jake Farren-Price has been putting in some solid results too.”
Jack Cookson narrowly missed out on a medal finishing in fourth last year. The fellow Podium Potential Pathway has also been racing and training in Palma, but is looking forward to returning to the under-21 racetrack.
“It’ll be good to race the other Youth guys again, it’s a different type of racing compared to senior events, so that should be fun,” explains Cookson. “I’ll be looking to get off the startline cleanly and on the front row every time.”
“Of course I’m aiming for a podium finish!” declares Cookson.
Jake Farren-Price and Daniel Whiteley, who finished second and third respectively in last year’s Radial event, have now transitioned to the senior, Olympic Laser class.
Since that transition, Whiteley has made his mark and was crowned RYA Regional Youth Champion in Wales at the Dinghy Show in March. He has also represented the British Youth Sailing Team twice at Youth Sailing World Championships in the Radial and will now use his experience to aim for a second Youth Nationals medal.
However, Farren-Price has the same idea as he looks to medal for the second year running. Finishing the 2016 edition joint on point with Jamie Calder, Farren-Price was forced to settle for silver with Calder’s string of bullets too much to contend with.
“There will be some competitive racing with some great mates at a really good location,” summed up Farren-Price. “I’ve been getting as much time on the water as I can, researching the venue, keeping a clear head. I’ve done some team racing too.
“After losing out on countback last year, I want to do one better in 2017,” declared Farren-Price.
It won’t be easy with some tough competition, he admits: “It’s definitely going to be a proper fight on the racecourse. We’ve had close battles over the winter in the under-21 squad.”
The Whaley brothers are both aiming for the podium with younger sibling Ben ready for battle in the boys’ Radial fleet. Currently sitting second youth Radial in the UKLA rankings, having won a qualifier at the Youth Nationals venue of Hayling Island last year, Whaley is well placed to take on the ever competitive 54-boat Laser Radial fleet.
As with most of the fleet, Whaley has been training all winter but this will be his first week-long event since last summer.
But Whaley feels prepared: “Hayling can often be breezy, so I’ve working on my fitness which could be a key aspect.”
Despite his form, Whaley is not complacent and know he his fellow squad members will prove tough competition.
“It’s difficult to pin anyone down, it’s going to an open field. I’m aiming for consistency, not to excel in one wind strength, keeping the pace on in every condition and get the basics right.”
Whaley, who missed out by one place on a medal in 2016, goes into the regatta feeling determined: “I messed up some stuff last year. I came back fighting from those mistakes last summer and I don’t want to repeat the same errors next week.”
Competition comes in the form of Milo Gill-Taylor who recently finished top Youth at the Radial qualifier in Stokes Bay.
For Gill-Taylor, the Youth Nationals brings back fond memories beyond the racing, although it is also a key event in his calendar.
“It’s a really special event seeing everyone you used to sail with at junior level. It all comes together again so that’s great.”
But not to play down the racing Gill Taylor explains: “It’s the biggest event as a youth and it’s what you prepare for all winter, all your training leads to it, you may not always been thinking about it but sub-consciously you’re training for the Youths. It’s so exciting to finally actually get to it!
“It’s a long event, we haven’t sailed that many successive days in a row so that will be a challenge, although it will be the same for everyone. This is the event where I’m looking to bring everything together and do the best I can do,” concludes Gill-Taylor.
Also in the mix will be Royal Burnham’s Arthur Brown who finished third under-17 at Radial Youth Worlds last summer.
In the girls’ Radial class, Matilda Nicholls will be making her Youth Nationals debut. The Laser 4.7 U16 European Champion transitioned into the Radial over the winter, but is already showing she has what it takes in the Youth fleet following a string of top results at qualifier events so far this year.
Hoping experience will count in her favour, Stephanie Wingeatt will be competing at her third Youth Nationals. Wingeatt (Leigh and Lowton SC) currently resides as top youth girl in the Radial rankings, but knows there are some strong sailors in the fleet.
“I’m excited to race against the best youth sailors in the country. The other girls in Youth Squad will obviously provide a challenge, as will some of the more experienced sailors such as Clementine Thompson and Chloe Barr,” said Wingeatt.
Clementine Thompson, one of the most experienced sailors in the medal mix, has been training as part of the Podium Potential Pathway squad and after taking silver last year will be going for gold. Stokes Bay sailor Chloe Barr finished third in the 2016 edition and went on compete at the Youth Sailing World Championships.
In the RS:X girls’ windsurfing event it will be a tussle between last year’s bronze and silver medallists.
Youth squad member Erin Watson (Loch Insh) will aiming for an event win after finishing third at her Youth Nationals debut at Plas Heli last year.
Watson reflects on the 2016 edition: “I had a lot of fun at the event last year but it wasn’t really my kind of conditions whereas next week looks better for me, so I want to see what I can do to start the year.
“I’ve been doing lots of speed work this winter trying to get faster in all conditions. A lot the squad training has been in strong conditions, but I think we’re going to get some lighter winds at the event,” explains a hopeful Watson.
However, the event has its challenges for Watson: “With exams coming up, I’m trying to focus on the event and keep a calm head. I’ve also never sailed in proper tide before, so I’ll see what I can with that.
“I’m going to aim for top five in the open fleet, but in the girls’ fleet Lily is probably my biggest competition. We were close last year, so I’ll be trying to beat her,” admits Watson.
Watson’s rivals for the top spot includes 2016 silver medalist Lily Young who finished the opening Spring Series event in second.
Whilst for the Watson the venue will present its own challenge, Young is looking forward to returning to Hayling Island following her training.
“I used to train at HISC when I first started RS:X in 2015 and haven’t really been back since, so it’ll be nice to go back and see how much I’ve improved,” said Young. “I’ve been doing a lot of fitness and trying to sail as much as possible in different conditions. I also went to Princess Sofia regatta, did the first Spring Series and I’ve trained hard over the winter.
“Erin is probably my biggest rival, we train a lot together so she’ll be the toughest competitor.
“Sailing in the tide is quite tricky so I'll be trying hard to work on that. I definitely want to have fun and hopefully improve my sailing in general. It’ll be a good training week as well, with the tides and waves,” describes Young.
In the boys’ fleet, Andy Brown (Largs/WPNSA) will start the week as event favourite. The Scot will be going for gold as he aims to defend his Youth Nationals title.
Brown won the 2016 edition in style, with a consistent week to not count a race outside of the top three. He then went on to medal at the EUROSAF Youth Europeans last summer and represent the British Youth Sailing team at December’s Youth Sailing World Championships.
Brown will be joined by younger brother Sam on the RS:X startline.
Also in the medal mix will be Josh Carey, Isaac Line and Ben Tweedle who finished February’s Spring Series in first, second and third respectively.
A fleet of Techno 7.8 sailors aged over 15 but under 18 on the 31 December 2018, will join the RS:X on the windsurf racecourse.
With the aim of getting selected for a Youth Olympic Games training group, competition will be tight in the 18-board fleet.
Event registration and equipment inspection opens on Friday 7 April and racing starts for all classes on Monday 10 April through to Friday 14 April at HISC.
You can follow the event build-up and see the action unfold on the RYA Youth National Championships website, British Youth Sailing Facebook page, on Twitter at @RYAyouthracing and on Instagram @britishyouthsailing. Share your comments with us using #RYAYouths.