Fourteen aspiring young champions are preparing to represent Great Britain at the prestigious Youth Sailing World Championships, which get underway in Auckland, New Zealand, this Friday (16-20 December).

The selected British sailors, competing across nine events, will experience their Christmas countdown in the southern hemisphere as they get set to take on around 270 the world’s best under 19-year-old sailing talents from 66 nations out on the Hauraki Gulf.

The 17-year-old windsurfer Emma Wilson and Laser Radial sailor Daniel Whiteley, 18, will both be seeking upgrades to their respective silver and bronze medals from the 2015 edition of the event in Malaysia, with Jack Butters-James King also experiencing their second Youth Worlds, albeit in a new boat – the Nacra 15 multihull.

“I’m really looking forward to the Youth Worlds in New Zealand. Last year I got a silver medal and hopefully I can improve on that with a gold,” explained Wilson, who narrowly missed out on the podium at the RS:X class’s Youth World Championships in October where she finished fifth.

“I want to medal again but I know it’s really hard as there are more and more youth girls going coming through. I just want to know that I have done everything that I can do.”

Wilson has been gaining experience and honing her skills on the senior circuit this season, which she hopes will be of benefit when she takes on the under 19 fleet. 

“I think it helps to race against the older, more mature sailors and hopefully I can put that into the Youth sailing, but a lot of girls have also been doing the senior sailing so we will see what happens.”

Both Wilson and Whiteley have joined the British Sailing Team ranks with an eye on future Olympic campaigns. North Walian Whiteley has been training in Weymouth and Portland alongside more senior sailors in both the Laser Radial and Laser Standard fleets.

“I have moved to Weymouth so I can train every day and I am just making sure that I’m quick, good at boat handling and prepared for the Youth Worlds,” the Pwllheli sailor explained. I came third last year and I was happy with that. I want to do better, but sailing is uncertain so I will give it my best shot.

World Championship bronze medallists Crispin Beaumont-Tom Darling will fly the flag in the 29er Men’s fleet, while Hannah Bristow and Emily Covell – daughter of 2000 Olympic silver medallist Mark – will represent Great Britain in the 29er Women’s event.

Isabel Davies-Gemma Keers were the third-placed under 19 women’s crew at the 420 World Championships in 2016 and will compete in the 420 Women’s fleet in Auckland, with Robbie King-Marcus Tressler representing Great Britain in the 420 Men’s event.

Andy Brown and Chloe Barr round off the British Youth Sailing Team line-up in Auckland, and will compete in the RS:X Men’s and Laser Radial Women’s events respectively.

The Youth Sailing World Championships is a proven talent indicator, with past notable British winners including Olympic champions Ben Ainslie, Sarah Ayton and Giles Scott. Unlike other international events the sailors compete at, the Youth Worlds provides equipment for all the classes, an additional challenge for all the team at the regatta where, just like the Olympic Games, nations can only field one crew per event.

RYA Youth Racing Manager Mark Nicholls said: “We have sent a full British team to this year’s Youth Worlds which includes 2015 and 2016 international medallists.

“Since selection earlier this summer all of the team have been working hard to produce their top performance in December. This is the strongest team we have sent for a number of years and I think we are in with a great chance of all the sailors delivering their best personal performances.”

Andy Brown (Largs SC)
Emma Wilson (OTC/WPNSA)

Laser Radial
Chloe Barr (Stokes Bay SC)
Daniel Whiteley (Pwllheli SC)

Hannah Bristow and Emily Covell (Leigh & Lowton / HISC)
Crispin Beaumont and Tom Darling (Baryley SC / HISC)

Isabel Davies and Gemma Keers (Itchenor SC)
Robbie King and Marcus Tressler (Warsash SC / Rutland SC)

Nacra 15
Jack Butters and James  King (Parkstone)

Racing starts on 16 December and you can see the full results on the Youth Worlds website, and follow the team on the British Youth Sailing Team Facebook and Twitter @RYAYouthRacing