Over 325 young sailors will face a royal audience at the 2016 RYA Youth National Championships, which get underway at the Welsh National Sailing Academy, Plas Heli, on Monday 4 April.
The Youth Nationals, which spans five days of competition, is the premier event on the youth racing calendar and the best of the best will be vying for selection to represent Britain on an international stage as well as for a UK Youth Squad place.
While the front of the fleet will be aiming for Youth Nationals glory, others will be putting everything they have learned over the winter into practice.
HRH The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, will be attending the final day of the regatta on Friday 8 April.
Aiming for glory in the 24-boat Laser class is Anthony Parke (WPNSA), who is looking to improve on his previous form having finished third at the last two Youth Nationals: “It’s going to be a very close with extremely tough competition, but I'll sail as hard as I can and hopefully prevail.”
The competition comes in the form of Jack Cookson, also from WPNSA, as Parke explained: “After having awesome qualifiers the last couple of weekends, Jack Cookson can't be overlooked as a rival, as well as fourth place finisher last year Harry Blowers. Having said this anyone could come out on top in the end in such a tightly competitive fleet.”
Cookson won the 2015 event in the Laser Radial class, he followed this up with gold at the EUROSAF Youth European Championships before transitioning into the senior, Olympic Laser class.
Since that transition, Cookson has made his mark winning the 2016 Laser Standard Qualifier in Stokes Bay (19-20 March) and he is now aiming for a second Youth Nationals title: “I want to win the Youth Nationals, as I did last year. I feel that I’m capable of doing so and I’m looking forward to fighting for it on the water.
“I am confident in my ability to perform at the Youth Nationals and hope that my training and progress over the winter will pay off,” concluded Cookson.
Jamie Calder (Loch Tummel and Royal Forth), the current Laser Radial Youth European Champion, won the 2014 Youth Nationals before finishing fifth in 2015, now he is back to regain his title: “My aim for the week is to win but I’m also looking further ahead after my exams so I’m very relaxed about the outcome at Pwllheli.”
The standard is high in the ever competitive 50-boat Laser Radial fleet. Daniel Whiteley (Port Dinorwic), Calder’s friend, rival and a Youth Worlds bronze medallist, will be his toughest competition.
“The Radial fleet is always very tight and there are several sailors that have raised their game recently,” Calder explained, “but having medalled at the Youth Worlds at Christmas I would expect Dan Whiteley to be my biggest rival. We have known each other since Optimist days and enjoy competing against each other.”
In the girls’ Radial class, Chloe Barr (Stokes Bay) finished the 2015 Youth Nationals in fifth. Barr has worked hard on her decision making and aims to improve on her finishing position: “My aim is to make logical decisions based on the picture in front of me, think about risk versus reward when making big decisions and to enjoy the racing.”
At the Laser Radial Qualifier in Stokes Bay, Barr finished as top youth girl which has boosted her confidence ahead of the Youth Nationals.
“Stokes Bay has proved to me that I can consistently make good decisions, I know that I can be confident if I can keep that up. My main rivals are probably going to be the other girls in the squad and some of the more senior girls.”
Clementine Thompson (Guernsey Yacht Club) is one of the more senior sailors who Barr mentions. She finished fourth last year and more recently in Stokes Bay, Thompson placed second behind London 2012 Olympian Ali Young.
However, Thompson does not underestimate her younger competition: “It’s difficult to say who my main rivals will be. It depends on the wind conditions we get; there are some very quick girls in light winds so I’ll do my best to keep up with them!”
Other sailors in contention for Youth Nationals title glory include Ellie Cumpsty (CVLSC) and Anna Sturrock (Loch Tummel/Royal Tay).
Favourite in the RS:X girls’ windsurfing class is Emily Hall after recently finishing in second place at the RYA Olympic Classes Spring Series (12-13 March): “The Spring Series really gave me some extra confidence going into this week, I also know the areas I need to focus on during the regatta,” said Hall.
“This week I aim to be consistent in all the varied conditions, consolidate all my winter training for the summer season and avoid any letter scores.”
Hall’s rivals for the top spot include Erin Watson (Loch Insh). Andrew Brown won the Spring Series in the RS:X windsurfing class and is at the Youth Nationals to win again.
“I feel very confident going into the Youths,” explained Brown.
“The Spring Series was a good event and it’s great to see that my winter training is paying off. There's a lot of competitors at a high level, so it will be a challenging week, but I'm going to be focusing on the processes, sailing my own race and I’m looking to win it.”
James Hatcher finished just behind Brown in March and will be his greatest on water rival.
Previews to follow on the top competition in the 420, 29er and Spitfire classes.
Event registration and equipment inspection opens on Saturday 2 April and racing starts for all classes on Monday 4 April through to Friday 8 April at Welsh National Sailing Academy, Plas Heli.
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 and on Twitter at @RYAyouthracing. Share your preparations and comments with us using #RYAYouths.