The British Youth Sailing Team claimed two medals on a dramatic final day of Youth Sailing World Championships racing in Sanya (CHN) on Friday, with windsurfer Emma Wilson topping the podium in the Girl’s RS:X event.
Wilson successfully defended her 2016 crown and added a further title to her previous gold and a silver acquired over the past three editions of this multi-class Youth Worlds, while Daisy Collingridge sealed bronze in the Laser Radial event.
It’s been 12 years since Great Britain last won a Girl’s Laser Radial medal at these combined Youth Worlds, when Alison Young claimed bronze at the 2005 edition in Busan, Korea.
The final races for both classes on Friday saw nail-biting conclusions, with Wilson and Italian rival Giorgia Speciale locked in battle around the RS:X race track.
Wilson eventually broke away and crossed the finish line first ahead of the Italian to see them matched on points after five days and 13 races, and confusion then set in as to who had won the overall gold and how the tie would be broken.
The Christchurch windsurfer took the victory based on her superior placing in the final race, and afterwards Wilson admitted that, as defending champion, she’d have been disappointed to have left the Chinese venue with anything less than gold.
“I’m so happy and relieved!” said the 18-year-old. “It was so close for the whole week – I was second for the whole week and then finally on that last reach I pulled up. It was amazing.”
“I like all the conditions really, but to have some wind today was pretty nice. Today was offshore, really gusty and shifty. For the whole race me and the Italian girl were neck and neck, she was covering me the whole way round. On the last downwind I went the opposite way and managed to pump round. It was amazing – I still can’t believe I did it!”
Wilson now signs off her youth racing career to focus on senior campaigning in the build up to Tokyo 2020, but reflected on some valuable lessons from her days in the youth ranks.
“Probably my biggest lesson from my youth days is to never give up. This week proved that – you just have to keep going and keep going, keep chipping away, and then finally it came good.
“Hopefully I will keep on improving from here and see some good stuff at the senior level.”
In the Girl’s Laser Radial event, Daisy Collingridge started the day in overall fourth, in with a chance of bronze but precariously placed with a number of other boats close on points around her.
The young British sailor didn’t have the best start, but pulled through on the final run to move into the bronze medal spot, overtaking the Argentinian sailor.
An elated Collingridge said: “I honestly don’t think it has really sunk in yet. I’m really, really shocked to have done this well, but I’m really happy with how I’ve been sailing this week.
“I knew I was in contention at the beginning of the day and was just trying to stay focused throughout the day.”
“I was pretty nervous this morning, because I knew that there were only two points between me and third, and two points between me and the person behind me so it really was completely up for grabs,” continued the Suffolk sailor.
“I knew what I needed to do, and that was get a good start, sail the pressure, which is what I’ve been doing all week. I didn’t actually get the best start and had to fight from pretty deep to get where I was and on the last downwind I took a big bundle including the Argentinian who was ahead of me. So I got it on the last bit!”
Gold went to USA’s Charlotte Rose with Uruguayan sailor Dolores Moreira Fraschini taking silver.
After a pleasing week, a buoyant Collingridge is excited to see where her sailing can take her.
“It’s been such a good experience here. I had really high expectations for the event, and it’s really lived up to it. The atmosphere is so nice, and everyone’s been so friendly. It’s been a great week, and I love sailing Lasers so much, so I’m up for training, keeping going, seeing what under 21 events bring and see where I go from here.”
Elsewhere across the fleets, there were top ten finishes for the Girl’s 420 duo of Hatty Morsley-Pippa Cropley in fifth, with RS:X windsurfer Andy Brown and the Girl’s 29er duo Bella Fellows-Anna Sturrock finishing sixth.
Cornish Nacra 15 duo Benno Marstaller-Chloe Collenette rounded off their regatta in 13th, Boy’s 420 duo Alex Smallwood-Ross Thompson were 14th, Ben Whaley was 19th in the Boy’s Laser Radial and Nick Robins-Billy Vennis-Ozanne were 20th in the Boy’s 29er.
James Gray, the British Youth Sailing Team’s Leader in Sanya, summed up the event: “It’s been a hard-fought week in conditions that our sailors don’t experience that much of in the UK, but I’m delighted with the two medals we won today and I think we can be proud of how we conducted ourselves as a team regardless of outcomes. Each sailor continued to learn and to fight even when things hadn’t quite gone to plan.”
“Obviously we’re delighted for our two medallists. I think as returning champion Emma had put quite a lot of pressure on herself to defend that title at her last youth event, and it’s great that she managed to do so. The fact that it went down to the wire in the final race and she held her nerve to come through it I’m sure will be a fantastic quality and memory to have as she focuses on her Olympic campaign from now on.”
Gray continued: “I’ve been really impressed with Daisy this week. She knew she was probably an outside contender but again has shown great maturity to keep on learning and improving with each day to end up with the bronze medal. It’s been quite some time since we’ve had a single-handed female dinghy sailor who has managed to do that at this event.”
“The team spirit among the group has been fantastic, and World Sailing and the Chinese Sailing Federation have done a great job in hosting us here.”
Full results from the 2017 Youth Sailing World Championships
British Youth Sailing Team competing in China:
Andy Brown (Loch Insh) – 6th
Emma Wilson (Christchurch) - Gold
Ben Whaley (Swanage, Dorset) – 19th
Daisy Collingridge (Woodbridge, Suffolk) - Bronze
Alex Smallwood and Ross Thompson (Beaconsfield/Godalming) – 14th
Hatty Morsley and Pippa Cropley (Y Felinheli/Sparsholt) – 5th
Benno Marstaller and Chloe Collenette (Mylor/Restronguet) – 13th
Bella Fellows and Anna Sturrock (Plymouth/Loch Tummel) – 6th
Nick Robins and Billy Vennis-Ozanne (Winchester/Hill Head) – 20th
Follow the team on the British Youth Sailing Team Facebook
and Twitter @RYAYouthRacing.