Twelve of Great Britain’s most promising young sailors are all set to make their mark on the world stage when racing at the 44th ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships gets underway on Monday (14 July).
The event, being staged in Tavira, Portugal, will see over 371 of the world’s top Olympic hopefuls from 68 nations competing for honours at the world’s premier youth sail racing event.
The 12 sailors, who fly out to the Portuguese venue today (Thursday 10 July) to begin preparations, were selected for the British Youth Sailing Team following their gold-medal winning performances at the 2014 RYA Youth National Championships in Weymouth and Portland this April.
And all but two will be making their ISAF Youth Worlds debuts at Portugal’s Clube Náutico de Tavira, located on the west side of the Algarve, with SL16 helm Oli Greber and 420 helm Tim Riley having enjoyed their first event appearance in Limassol, Cyprus last summer.
Olivier Greber and Jess Eales,Spitfire,GBR 160 - 2014 RYA Youth National Championships - © Paul Wyeth - RYA
The British challenge will be led by 2013 ISAF Youth Worlds bronze medallist Oli Greber, who clinched a podium position crewing for former teammate James Henson in the SL16 catamaran class. This year, Greber, 18, has moved to the back of the boat to take up the helm and brings with him Lymington’s Jess Eales as his crew.
'My overall goal is to win a medal and obviously it would be incredible to achieve gold after coming so close with a bronze medal at last year’s event in Limassol, Cyprus. This year I have switched from crew to helm and am now sailing with Jess [Eales], so we are still relatively new in the boat together but are confident we can do well,' explained the 18-year-old from Eastbourne, East Sussex.
Sixteen teams featuring several former medallists will fight it out in the Open Multihull SL16 fleet, with defending Kiwi champion Micah Wilkinson, with new crew Jack Rogers, in attendance along with Brazil's Kim Vidal who Greber and Henson edged out of the bronze medal position in the final race of the 2013 regatta.
'It is a huge honour to represent Great Britain for a second consecutive year at what is the world’s biggest stage for Youth sailing. The ISAF Youth Worlds is such an incredible event and I’m looking forward to getting out to Portugal to race against the best sailors from around the world. There are some fantastic sailors in attendance and it will be great to race against some familiar faces from last year’s event.'
18-year-old Tim Riley from Warsash, Hampshire, who will this year be returning with crew James Taylor, is hoping his experience from Limassol, Cyprus will stand them in good stead when they line up in the boy’s 420 fleet.
'With this being my second time at the ISAF Youth Worlds I have a bit more of an understanding of what is going to happen and what is required at such a high profile event. It is a very different event to what we are used to - but as a pairing that has been to the class 420 Worlds and Junior European Championships - we have experience at the top level of our sport, which should help us start performing straight from the off.'
With multiple Olympic gold medallists Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy, Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb among the many high-profile Brits who have represented their country at the celebrated Under 19 event, the class of 2014 cannot wait to have the chance to follow in their heroes’ footsteps.
Sarah Norbury, who will be competing with her crew Mari Davis in the girl’s 420 class, said: 'It is going to be a real honour to represent our country and follow in the footsteps of some famous Olympians. It is really inspiring as well because we were looking at the trophies we had won at the selection event and could see lots of Olympic names on the trophies. It’s amazing to know we are taking a step in the right direction.'
At 15, boys’ Laser Radial sailor Jamie Calder is the youngest member of British Youth Sailing Team, and admits even though it would be a dream come true to win the regatta in Portugal, that his sights are set on learning as much as possible at what is regarded as the pinnacle event of Youth sailing.
'As I am only fifteen, this year is mostly to gain as much experience as possible from what is such a massive event. Having said that, my goal is to finish in the top 10 and go on to win the event in 2015.'
The Edinburgh youngster continued: 'As there is only one representative per country, everyone at the regatta will be of a very high standard. I have never been to Tavira but expect to get light air conditions and be sailing against the best youth sailors in the world. This will make the event really tough but if you want to be the best you have to beat the best!'
Imogen Sills will be hoping to emulate her twin sister Saskia’s success, who won gold at the 2012 event in Dublin, Ireland, in the girl’s RS:X windsurfing class, while Robert York will be flying the GBR flag in the boy’s event. Owen Bowerman and Morgan Peach will be gunning for glory in the 29er skiff class, with the due aiming to bow out of the RYA Youth Racing programme in impressive fashion.
Oli Woodcock, British Youth Sailing Team Head Coach in Tavira, commented: 'This year we have a fantastic team environment within the British camp and the sailors are all well prepared and eager to get out to Portugal for what will be a great event and fantastic learning experience. We have a relatively young team this year, with only two of the twelve having competed at the event before - however all are still extremely passionate, capable and committed to performing to the best of their ability.
'The main aim for this young, talented group of sailors is to learn as much as possible, have a great experience and to use this regatta as a springboard for their class World and European Championships taking place later on this summer. It’s important that the team isn’t thinking about the overall team trophy or the final results this early on, but that they are focused on their individual routines and processes. If the sailors can do that then we should be able to create an environment for them to learn a huge amount whilst having a fun and enjoyable regatta.'
Mark Nicholls, RYA Youth Racing Manager, added: 'As one of the premier senior Youth events on the calendar this is a tremendous opportunity for our sailors to show their potential on the world stage. We wish them all the best and are looking forward to them returning with a good haul of medals.'
All the British sailors are aged between 15 and 18 and will fly out to Portugal to begin their preparations on Thursday 10 July.
There are a maximum of 13 races scheduled for the five Youth classes at the Clube Náutico de Tavira. The opening race of the regatta is on Monday 14 July with the medals due to be decided on Friday 18 July. The British Youth Sailing Team for the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships 2014:
Boys: Tim Riley (Warsash SC)/James Taylor (Hayling Island SC)
Girls: Sarah Norbury (South Staffordshire SC)/Mari Davies (Club Hwylio Pwllheli) 29er
Owen Bowerman (Hayling Island SC)/Morgan Peach (Royal Torbay YC) RS:X
Boys: Robert York (Skegness)
Girls: Imogen Sills (Roadford Lake SC) Laser Radial
Boys: Jamie Calder (Loch Tummel/Royal Forth YC)
Girls: Ellie Cumpsty (Chew Valley Lake Sailing Club) SL16 Catamaran
Olivier Greber (Pevensey Bay SC)/ Jess Eales (Royal Lymington YC/Hayling Island SC) British Youth Sailing Team website ISAF Youth Worlds