Olympic sailing stars Luke Patience, Hannah Mills and Nick Dempsey were on hand to inspire the next wave of Olympic hopefuls at the RYA Youth National Championships at Weymouth and Portland (14-18 April).
The five-day event, held at the scene of their 2012 silver medal-winning triumphs, is the premier event on the annual Youth Racing calendar, and is an event which Mills won herself in the 420 girls event in 2005.
The British Sailing Team trio were on hand to watch the next generation racing, and to share their experiences and top tips with the young sailors, which number some 392 across six boat classes in what’s the biggest ever RYA Youth National Championships.
Mills’ Youth Nationals victory provided a springboard on to her medal success at Youth World Championship level that year, which was the platform which saw her qualify into the British Sailing Team’s Olympic Development Squad and the start of her journey in the 470 class towards Olympic glory seven years later.
The 26-year-old Mills, who went on to win World Championship gold in 2012 as well as her historic Olympic silver, has fond memories of the RYA Youth National Championships as an event which helped shape her as a sailor and a future Olympic competitor.
'I have great memories of the RYA Youth National Championships, obviously the one which I won and was selected to represent Great Britain at the ISAF Youth Worlds which was amazing. I just remember having a great week, the competition is always really tight and the racing is such great fun.
'It’s great to be down here today to watch the country’s best youth sailors and to try and inspire the next generation of Olympic hopefuls.'
As well as the honour of being crowned RYA Youth National Champion, the event doubles up as a selection event for the British Youth Sailing Team set to compete at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships, which this year takes place in in Tavira, Portugal in July. The opportunity to earn selection to the RYA UK Youth Squads and to win a host of international travel grants will also be up for grabs.
But while competitive juices will certainly be flowing on the Olympic and Paralympic waters of Weymouth and Portland, Patience, who finished fourth in the 420 boys event in 2004, and third in 2003, urged the young sailors to enjoy themselves and learn as much as they can from the racing this week.
'Winning is great but it’s not everything for a young sailor. I know many other sailors on the British Sailing Team who never won a Youth Nationals and who have gone on to achieve great things.
'There are always lessons to pull upon for the people who don’t do as well as they had hoped, and often those lessons are actually more valuable than for those who did well at the event,' explained Patience.
The RYA Youth National Championships continues until Friday 18 April – for full results and information, visit the event website
. British Sailing Team website