by Matt Carter
The RYA Youth National Championships are set to get underway and Largs Sailing Club, Scotland, is ready to welcome Britain’s sailing stars of the future on Monday 1 April for five days of adrenaline packed racing.
Annabel Cattermole and Bryony Bennett Lloyd, 420 - 2012 RYA Volvo Youth National Championships, Pwllheli Sailing Club, North Wales
Over 345 dinghy, catamaran and windsurf racers will compete across four race areas in the Firth of Clyde for championship honours and the chance to be selected to represent RYA Team GBR at a range of International Competitions, World and European Championships in 2013.
Five reigning champions will be bidding to retain their crowns during the week; Ellie Meopham (Fishguard Bay YC) in the female Laser Radial class, RS:X windsurfers Saskia Sills (Road Ford Lake) and Kieran Martin (Carsington Water SC), 29er female champions Vikki Payne (Emsworth SC) and Stephanie Orton (Chichester YC), and Hector Simpson (Yorkshire Dales SC) in the Laser Standard class.
Michael Beckett (Solva SC), who was crowned top British boat in the boys Laser Radial class in 2012 will also be making an appearance as he looks to pit his racing skills in the larger Laser Standard rig, while Tom Britz (Royal Lymington YC), Great Britain’s representative and gold medal winner at the 2012 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in the multi-hull catamaran class, will be vying to get line honours in the under-21 Spitfire class with relatively new crew Abigail Hewitt.
The Laser Radial is the largest fleet of the Championships boasting 115 boats. With such large numbers the fleet is set to be one of the most competitive classes with a select number of sailors possessing the racing skills required to clinch championship honours.
A firm favourite in the female fleet is last year’s champion Ellie Meopham (Fishguard Bay YC) who will be looking to finish on the podium for a third consecutive year, adding to the bronze medal she won in 2011 and gold in 2012. The Welsh sailor will face stiff competition from the 2012 Laser Radial Youth Worlds bronze medallist Georgina Povall (Hickling Broad SC) who finished third at the 2012 regatta in North Wales.
The boys Radial fleet is expected to be wide open with some exciting young talent coming through the ranks from the RYA Junior Racing programme as well as some experienced RYA Youth Nationals campaigners who all have the capability to finish on the podium come the end of the week.
The double handed 420 class will miss out on last year’s reigning champions in both the boys and girls fleets leaving the door wide open for two new crews to etch their names on the prestigious RYA Youth Nationals trophy.
Annabel Catermole (Welwyn Garden City SC) and Bryony Bennett-Lloyd (Hickling Broad SC) will be amongst the ones to watch out for in the female fleet with the pair picking up some top results at recent regattas, while Joe Butterworth (Fishers Green SC) and Scotland’s Callum Airlie (East Lothian YC) will be looking to make the most of the home advantage in the boys fleet.
The battle for this year’s 29er crown looks set to be a close call with 2012 female champions Vikki Payne (Emsworth SC) and Stephanie Orton (Chichester YC) facing stiff competition for the female title from fellow RYA Volvo National Youth Squad sailors Ruth Allan (Emsworth SC) and Alice Masterman (Hayling Island SC).
Payne and Orton, who were crowned female champions of the 2012 EuroCup Series last season, will also be setting their sights on the overall event victory along with a number of other hot prospects including Matt Venables (Sutton SC) and Will Alloway (Rutland SC), the sibling pairing of Rob and Emma Loveridge (Draycote Water SC) who both finished inside the top five at the 2012 event and Mimi El Khazindar (Royal Lymington YC) and Ben Batten (Lymington Town SC) who topped the table at the recent Harken Grand Prix Series event at Rutland Sailing Club.
With the RS:X windsurfing fleet being at its biggest since the 2008 regatta in Pwllheli and with a whole host of medallists from last season’s World and European events entered, competition is set to be fierce. Amongst the 20 strong fleet are reigning champions Saskia Sills (Roadford Lake SC) and Kieran Martin (Carsington Water SC) who will be looking dominate proceedings for a second consecutive year.
Going for gold in the multi-hull catamaran Spitfire fleet will be Tom Britz (Royal Lymington YC) and Abigail Hewitt (West Lancashire Yacht Club). Britz, who won gold for RYA Volvo Team GBR at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships last year with Rupert White, will be looking to use the regatta as an opportunity to progress towards mixed Catamaran sailing in the Nacra 17 in his newly adopted partnership with Hewitt.
Duncan Truswell, RYA Youth Racing Manager, commented: 'The 2013 event is once again a massive turn out from all over the United Kingdom, as well as small teams from Ireland, Serbia and a presence once again from New Zealand for the third consecutive year.
'To have so many boats making the journey to Largs in difficult economic times says a lot about the esteem within which the event is held, we are very much looking forward to welcoming everyone to one of the UK’s premier venues and delivering a fantastic event and a great spectacle to promote our sport. I know everyone has worked hard this winter despite some challenging conditions and it should make for some really exciting racing.'
Sailors will also have the chance to showcase their talents in front of double Olympic gold medallist, Sarah Ayton OBE, who will head the panel of ISAF Youth Worlds selectors at Largs Sailing Club throughout the week of racing. In addition to Ayton, Britain's International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president Sir Craig Reedie, a former chairman of the British Olympic Association (BOA), will also be attending the event up at Largs.
Racing will be held for boys in Laser Standards, girls and boys in Laser Radials and Neil Pryde RS:X 8.5 windsurfers, and for all-boy, all-girl or mixed crews in 420s, 29ers and Spitfire catamarans.