The 2018 RYA Youth National Championship is the premier youth sailing event, and potentially the largest dinghy event in the UK. Largs Sailing Club hosted the 227 aspiring sailors from around the UK with 29 from Scotland competing across the 6 classes.
After a beautiful welcome to the Clyde the weather deteriorated as the scheduled racing was due to start as the famed Largs Easterly took hold of the event. The weather conditions posed too great a risk for racing to take place over the first two days of the event with winds above 25 knots gusting to over 40 with a wind chill of minus 5.
Day three brought about the first chance for racing to commence in strong but manageable conditions within the Largs Channel. However it was not until the event was graced by the presence of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal on day four that all fleets enjoyed a complete day of racing under blue skies.
Her Royal Highness, president of Youth National Championships organisers the Royal Yachting Association, seemed to be the Youth Nationals lucky charm as her visit coincided with an upturn in weather as the sun started to break through the clouds on the Scottish coast.
The race committee worked very hard throughout to keep the competitors sailing in tricky conditions. The teams of volunteers on committee vessels, safety and mark laying boats worked especially hard as the wind finally settled into the South, visiting most points of the compass on the way.
The strong winds returned to Largs for the final day of racing to ensure that all medals had to be earned in the trademark conditions for the week. Again the volunteers afloat provided superb safety cover and racing took place in all classes despite the final 29er race having to be abandoned due to the building easterly breeze.
Many of the leader boards were too close to call ahead of the final day which meant intense concentration and pressurised racing from the sailors to secure a place on the podium and be able to call yourself a Youth National champion.
Niamh Harper and Ross Thompson, started the final day in pole position to win the Open 420 class following an impressive string of results and never seemed like letting it slip from their grasp taking two wins from two final day races.
ï¿½We were really excited for today as the wind was up and we love sailing in the strong breeze,ï¿½ said Harper. It definitely showed on the scorecard and the water with a dominant lead over the competition.
Crew Thompson already had a taste of winning a Youth Nationals title when he took the same class title at the 2017 edition, and that played on new helm Harperï¿½s mind throughout the regatta: ï¿½I had a bit of pressure as Ross won it last year and I didnï¿½t want him to lose that title, but in the end it was all fine.ï¿½
Harper/Thompson finished on 12 points also claimed the U19 title and with an impressive 19 point lead over second placed Welsh duo of Rhys Lewis and Drew Wright.
Naimh commented after the event. ï¿½This will be my last Youths in a 420 and it felt a nice way to round up the series with the highlight actually being our results in the light wind day, which were not renowned for, so felt we earned it.ï¿½
As the pair transition into the 470 class this year Naimh also said: ï¿½Massive thanks to RYA Scotland, Sailing fast, the Robertson Trust and the Mudhook Yacht Club for support along with my clubs Loch Tummel and Royal Tay who have all helped to achieve this result.ï¿½
Calum Bell and Josh Hale claimed the top Scot position in the 420 fleet, and their final placing of 6th also gained them qualification for the British Youth Sailing team. This was the second youth nationals for the pair from Helensburgh and Loch Lomond Sailing Clubï¿½s with a significant improvement from last year.
ï¿½We did really well this week, exceeding a lot of expectations. It was good as we know the venue and sailed here a lot over the winter training programmes. Since we did so well we have qualified for the 420 Europeans in Portugal in June and the Worlds in Rhode Island in August.ï¿½ Commented Calum who contemplated the successful outcome
ï¿½Josh and I have got a lot to prepare for those events and it comes at the right point for us as a partnership in the boat, but itï¿½s back to studies before then.ï¿½
Ewan Wilson and Finley Armstrong, sailing for Wormit Boat Club, were crowned 29er Open winners after a powerful performance throughout the week.
ï¿½It was a tricky event with strong winds to start and then the shifty light wind day where we had four firsts, so we kept a consistency even until the last day of survival conditions where we got a 5th. Finnï¿½s really good, really fit and kept us upright!ï¿½ said Ewan after the event.
The fourteen year old from Fife continued to give some background on how his helming began. ï¿½I started in a Tera before moving into a Feva, but I jumped through a lot of classes to get a lot of experience in different boats. I have a moth at home which is really fun and I sailed with my dad a lot when I was younger but this is actually this will be my third youthï¿½s in a 29er.ï¿½
Concluding Ewan quietly stated. ï¿½Iï¿½m quite excited with the win and we get to go to the Youth Sailing World Championships in Texas. My family has been excellent in supporting us and thanks also to Ian Turnbull from Rope4Boats for providing some great kit.ï¿½
Winning gold in the 29er Girls fleet, Bella Fellows and Scots crew, Anna Sturrock, had a confident performance throughout the week, also finishing in second place overall just behind Ewan and Finley. In addition the pair were nominated by their fellow sailors for an award under the RYA Youth Sailing values for their supportive and inspirational attitude on and off the water.
Certainly crew Anna kept her cool throughout the event, keeping on the shades even under the grey skies. ï¿½It was really good sailing and tighter racing than last year. It the wind it is very physical as a crew in the 29er, especially in the breeze of the last day. Ultimately we did not have too much pressure on us this week as we were too old to qualify for the Youth Worlds Team so we just enjoyed the racing.ï¿½
Jamie Calder started the event with two straight wins in class but had some making up to do on the final day if he wanted to win in the Laser Standard on home waters and overcome rival Joseph Mullan. Calderï¿½s chances improved when he got off to a flying start and a win in the first race of the final day, but the resilient Mullan came back to take the final race of the championship and with it the gold medal.
Reflecting on the event overall Jamie commented: ï¿½It was a good fun week and Largs Sailing Club did a great job in hosting the event, although unfortunate to lose the first two days of racing to the weather. On the water I made some bad mistakes on the second day, which ultimately cost me the event despite picking up again on the last day. Itï¿½s a really tight fleet but also a good group of friends and at the end of the day whoever wins we are all happy for them, as they sailed the best.ï¿½
Laser Radial Girls
Overall class winner went to Chloe Barr of Stokes Bay who took a first and second place on the final day compared to her close rivals posting a fourth and a sixth to give her the overall victory, and with it a release:
ï¿½Honestly Iï¿½m quite relieved,ï¿½ said Barr, ï¿½The weather has been difficult all week but itï¿½s nice to know I can deal with all the conditions and come out on top.ï¿½
Christine Wood from the Clyde Cruising Club was top of the Scots in the final table, while Catie Warburton managed a 4th in race four to leave her just one place behind overall.
Laser Radial Boys
The Laser Radial Boys fleet had very tight racing with eleven Scots competing in the largest fleet at the event.
No one was more surprised to claim Laser Radial Boys gold than the winner himself, Jake Bowhay also from Stokes Bay Sailing Club.
ï¿½I thought of myself as a slight outsider coming in to the event,ï¿½ said Bowhay. ï¿½Some of my results in the run up hadnï¿½t been as good as I would have liked but everything seems to have come together nicely at the right time.ï¿½
Some of those circumstances that came together for Bowhay were his consistent results and a few black flagï¿½s for his closest competitors on the final day. With two third places from the two races, Bowhay leapfrogged to the top of the leaderboard and claimed gold ahead of Tom Renny and Arthur Fry.
Harris Cartwright was the top Scot finishing 17th overall, posting his best results in the lighter airs racing on Thursday alongside Gordon Cogan Sivarajan as the pair both posted top ten scores in the 10-12 knot south westerly.
Despite the lack of Scots in the Nacra 15 Open Class it was great to have their first competitive event on the Clyde. The new pathway class for the Olympic Nacra 17, in which Anna Burnett competes, made for some inspiring and spectacular racing.
William Smith and Abigail Clarke from Grafham SC and Lymington YC won with two wins on the final day capping a top quality regatta for the pair. They proved their dominance winning six of the ten races throughout the series which allowed them a little bit of time to enjoy the Youth Nationals title out on the waters of Largs before the racing had even finished: ï¿½To win with a race to spare was amazing,ï¿½ exclaimed Clarke. ï¿½Because we knew we had won before the last race we thought letï¿½s just send it and have fun. And we won that one as well to top of it.ï¿½
RYA Scotland High Performance Manager Abbie Hewitt said. "It has been a fantastic week for Scottish Youth Sailing here at Largs. We have had success both for our developing younger youth sailors along with those transitioning out of the youth classes later this year. Largs as a venue proved itself once again providing some challenging yet varied conditions offering some intense racing across all fleets."
Despite some challenging conditions throughout the week it was a real success for many of the volunteers and race crews from around the country who helped enable the event at Largs Sailing Club to be a safe and successful one. It was also very rewarding for some who look forward to Youth Worlds and International competition representing the British Sailing Team with a bright future ahead.
Full results are below: