Boats are rigged, equipment is inspected and sailors have completed their final preparation before racing gets underway tomorrow (Monday 10 April) at the RYA Youth National Championships at Hayling Island Sailing Club.
Spanning five days, the Youth Nationals is the premier youth racing event in the UK. The best of the best will be aiming to top the podium and to qualify to represent Britain on an international stage. For others, this is their first opportunity to race at a large multi-class event.
Over 370 dinghy, catamaran and windsurf racers will compete across four race course areas on the waters of Hayling Island for championship honours and the chance to be selected to represent the British Youth Sailing Team at a range of international competitions, World and European Championships in 2017.
Four reigning champions will be bidding to retain their crowns; Isabel Davies (420 girls), Gemma Keers (420 girls), Alex Smallwood (420 boys) and Andy Brown (RS:X), all landing their first Youth National titles in Plas Heli, Wales last year.
Itchenor’s Isabel Davies and Gemma Keers will be up against it if they are to retain their crown in the 420 class. The duo who represented Great Britain at the Youth Sailing World Championship in December will face stiff competition from 2016 Youth Nationals medallists Hatty Morsley-Pippa Cropley.
Also looking to defend a 420 Youth National Champion crown is Beaconsfield sailor Alex Smallwood who this year will be pairing up with Ross Thompson. Scottish windsurfer Andy Brown will going for a second Youth Nationals title in the RS:X boys’ fleet, whilst 2016 runners up Lily Young and Erin Watson are aiming for the girls’ crown.
The 29er class looks set to be a close contest with a number of crews racing at their first Youth Nationals together. Hayling’s Nick Robins is the only returning 29er boys’ medallist and will pair up with Billy Vennis-Ozanne. In the girls’ fleet, it will be a battle between previous medallists and some new faces. Having finished third in last year’s edition, Courtney Bilbrough and Hanna Brant will race at their second Youth Nationals together, whilst 2016 silver medallists Hattie Rogers and Orla Mitchell will now compete against one another with respective new teammates Eve Townsend and Freya Black.
With two-time RYA Youth National Champion Jamie Calder not competing, the door has been left open in the Laser Radial boys’ event. The 54-strong fleet is set to be one of the most competitive classes with a number of sailors aiming to clinch championship honours, including Ben Whaley and Milo Gill-Taylor. In the girls’ fleet, it will be Podium Potential Pathway’s Clementine Thompson versus the best of the Youth.
Jake Farren-Price and Daniel Whiteley, who made the Radial podium last year, have moved up to the Laser fleet as they test their mettle against seasoned Standard sailors. Podium Potential Pathway members Sam Whaley and Jack Cookson will start the week as front runners.
It will be a family affair in the multihull fleet with no less than five sets of siblings aiming for the podium. With some sailing together and others racing against each other, sibling rivalry could be rife. As the sole returning medallist, Will Heritage will be aiming to take the crown with new helm Theo Williams.
Mark Nicholls, Event Director said: “I’m really excited about the week ahead, there is a good feeling in the boat park and the weather is looking good.
“We’ve got a huge number of competitors from across the UK as well as some visiting teams looking to test their mettle against the very best that British sailing has to offer.
“The Techno 7.8 is at the event for the first time as a junior class and we’ve got some British Sailing Team sailors returning from Princess Sofia Trophy, Palma so it’s a rare opportunity to have a regatta like this.
“It’s a unique experience for all the competitors with such a wide range of sailors together and we’re looking forward to racing getting underway tomorrow,” concluded Nicholls.
HRH The Princess Royal, President of the Royal Yachting Association, will also visit the event on Thursday (13 April) to see the latest crop of talented sailors coming through the ranks.
Racing starts for all classes on Monday 10 April through to Friday 14 April at Hayling Island Sailing Club. Follow all the step-by step-action on our event blog that will go live at 9am on Monday.
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, @Britishyouthsailing on Instagram and on Twitter at @RYAyouthracing. Share your comments with us using #RYAYouths.