The 2023 RYA Youth National Championships returned to the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy over the Easter break (10-14 April) with almost 280 of the UK’s young sailing and foiling talents battling through testing conditions.
A week of strong winds, which included the arrival of Storm Noa on Wednesday, saw a disrupted schedule but race management teams made the best of improved weather when it came to ensure a regatta series was possible.
Winners were crowned across eight Youth classes with kite foilers and iQFOiL windfoilers joining sailors in the 420, Nacra 15, 29er, ILCA 6 (male and female) and ILCA 7 fleets for the five days of planned competition.
Rutland Sailing Club’s Carys Attwell was a stand-out performer from the week, winning every one of her races in the ILCA 6 Female event, including the final double-points Olympic-style medal race. The medal race format was a new addition to the last day of the Youth Nationals this year for selected fleets, allowing sailors experience of the format prior to stepping up into the senior ranks.
RYA Youth Racing Manager Oli Woodcock was impressed with the performances of the young athletes throughout the week.
“The sailors have done a great job. It’s really hard to keep your focus when you’re constantly under AP and don’t know if you’re going to go racing.
“I think they’ve done a great job to keep themselves focused and really professional to then go out and deliver. Thursday was obviously a really long day with brilliant sailing conditions and a lot was on that day.”
Oli concluded: “An event like this just couldn’t happen without the many volunteers who put in such hard hours and long hours both on land and on the water, so a massive thank you to all of them for their support.”
The latest in race management technology was also showcased at the Youth Nationals as the RaceSense system developed by instrumentation provider and Official Event Partner Vakaros was used to manage startlines and OCS calls on the Nacra 15 course.
The event also used robotic marks and GPS course-setting technology to help set races up more accurately, efficiently and sustainably.
The MarkSetBot system was used on the 29er course area and the medal race course, with teams using GPS and a mobile interface to position marks which hold their place until instructed to move.
This leads to a more environmentally-friendly solution with less requirement for volunteers, mark-laying boats or potentially damaging anchors on the sea bed.
Carys Attwell (Rutland (SC) dominated proceedings, winning all eight of the races throughout the week including her medal race. Silver went to Dru Townsend (Portishead Yacht & Sailing Club) with Honor Procter (Cardiff Bay Yacht Club) taking bronze.
Carys said: “I’m very happy and very, very pleased. Last year I was fourth so it’s great to be first this year in comparison. Hopefully it will prepare me for the summer events going forward.
“I’ve been preparing with the youth squad pretty much every weekend, and we went to Vilamoura in December, as well as doing some physical training at home.”
The ILCA 6 Male fleet was the only other fleet to manage a medal race amid Friday’s windy conditions. Christopher Marsh (Royal Hospital School) took the yellow leaders’ bib into the final race and finished second in the medal race to hold on for the overall win. Freddie Howarth (Parkstone Yacht Club) took silver and Tim Evans (Grafham Water Sailing Club) claimed bronze overall and the medal race victory.
Christopher said: “It was pretty wild today. I came second in the medal race as I messed up the start.
“The results have been positive this week for me, so I would like to end up in the top 10 going forward. But this week has been great experience for me. I have just come back from the Princess Sofia regatta so I’m pretty tired now.”
The windfoilers were the only other racers to see any action on the final day. Also taking on an Olympic-style winner-takes-all format for their final races, Alexander Meadway (Swanage SC) went home with gold, Tommy Millard (ASC Portsmouth) with silver and Will Ziegler (Portsmouth Planers) with bronze.
Darcey Shaw (Parkstone Yacht Club) was the top female across the week.
Alexander said: “I feel great, I feel amazing, I wasn’t expecting to win so this is great!”
“I can see myself following some of the others who have gone to the internationals and doing well so hopefully I can go on and do well too!”
Darcey said: “There’s a few of the other guys that I’d like to beat next time!”
“Every competition’s a new competition but the experience is really good so I’m just going to keep focused.”
With no racing possible on the final day Luke Anstey (Frensham Pond SC) took the overall win in the ILCA 7 event, with an impressive series scoring all race wins or seconds.
Tom Mitchell (Royal Tay Yacht Club) claimed silver and WPNSA local Josh Morgan completed the podium with bronze.
Luke said: “Race management has been great this week, and they have been very efficient turning the racing around. Thanks to the team for their efforts.
“I have been lucky enough to be able to get out to Valencia over the winter period for a couple of weeks for some additional training, which was great to get away from the rain and cold of England. I also prepared for the regatta at this venue last weekend.”
The planned medal race for the 420s was unable to be held, so Henry Heathcote & Oscar Cawthorne (Royal Lymington Yacht Club / Shustoke Sailing Club) held on to the overall win in the 420 class, counting all races inside the top four across the week. Imogen Wade & Teddy Dunn (Draycote Water SC / Isle of Man YC) claimed overall silver, with George Creasy & David Bromilow (West Kirby SC) in bronze position.
Henry said: “We’re a fairly new pair, we started last summer and we’ve had a few good results during this week.”
“We’re just hoping to keep winning in the UK and then transfer that into the internationals and see how we go. We’re still new and haven’t gone international yet so we’ll see how it goes.”
Holly Wright & Olivia Nixon (West Kirby SC) were the top female team.
Olivia said: “We have been sailing for a while together and we just make decisions together and we talk about races after with positives and criticisms but it’s just to get better.”
“We’re going to keep training hard over the summer and then I think our next is Worlds, there might be another one in between, but we’re hoping to become the first girls at the Worlds.”
Counting six race wins from their nine races, Finian Morris & Oscar Morgan Harris (Royal Lymington YC / Hayling Island SC) claimed gold in the 29er event. Santiago Sesto-Cosby & Kuba Staite (Royal Lymington YC / Hayling Island SC) took silver with Charlie Gatehouse & Ben Bradley completing the overall podium in bronze.
Finian said: “This is our first week regatta win. We’re stoked as it shows our potential going into the Worlds.
“We are a heavy team, so keeping the bow above the waves has been hard and there has been a lot of kinetic work.”
Finishing as the top female crew and one of two female teams to qualify for the medal race were Annabelle Vines & Madeline Bilbrough (Royal Lymington YC / Hayling Island SC).
Madeline said: It was very testing windy and very wavy, so difficult for the girls to keep up with the boys this week because of the weight difference. We developed loads as a team, getting along well still and the results were good so we are very happy. It’s our first season sailing together so we’re off to a good start!”
Favourites heading into the event, Sam Cox & Sophie Raven (Restronguet SC / Exe SC) sealed overall victory amid a strong challenge from visiting European teams as the event formed part of the Class’s international SuperSeries.
Sam and Sophie went into the final day level on points with the Belgian team of Mateo Leclercq & Mathieu Pinnsart but held onto gold with no racing possible on Friday.
The British podium in the event also comprised Albie Cutbill & Izzy Smith (WPNSA / Starcross YC) in silver and Restronguet SC’s Scully siblings Tara and Jacques in bronze.
Sam said: The best bit for me has been the conditions, [it’s been] great to have wind and waves for the downwind for us both. There have also been some really close races! We didn’t have a great first day, struggled a bit to get off the start line and had a little swim at one point! We managed to pull it back through with some consistent result which we are pleased with.”
Adam Farrington (BKSA) was the leading rider at the close of the Kite Foil series, counting four first and four second places from his eight races across the week. Sam Dickinson (WPNSA) secured silver and Matteo Maini (BKSA) completed the men’s podium in bronze, with Ella Geiger the top female rider in the kite fleet.
Adam said: “It’s been amazing, harsh conditions but we all managed to get out there. [It’s been an] awesome week and I managed to win which was great!”
Ella said: “It actually went well, and I am very happy with what I did. It was challenging conditions but I felt like I had it under control for most of it!”
Full results are available on the Youth Nationals event website.