The 2013 RYA Youth National Championship opened with spells of sunshine and a shifty 12-14 knot wind greeting the 333 sailors vying for championships honours this week, as they took to water for a cold yet cracking opening day of competition (Monday 1 April).
Racing kicked off, as scheduled, at 11:30am with the nation’s finest Youth sailors and windsurfers joined by competitors from Ireland, Serbia and New Zealand completing the full schedule of races as they engaged in a thrilling day of racing on the Firth of Clyde.
The RS: X windsurfers were the first to complete their three races with last year’s reigning champions Kieran Martin and Saskia Sills exhibiting composure and showing their intent to the 20 strong RS: X windsurfing fleet.
Martin asserted himself at the top end of the fleet from the word go clinching wins in the opening two races followed by a second in the final race of the day.
'Today was a great start to the regatta for me and I’m really happy with my results,' enthused Martin.
'In the last race of the day I messed up the start as I went the wrong way and decided to try a different style of windsurfing which is a bit faster but also more risky which didn’t work out, but I somehow managed to claw it back so I’m not too worried.'
'It’s a really competitive fleet this year with some great sailors. I got pretty lucky with the shifts in the opening two races; it’s so shifty out there which makes it quite tricky at times. With the same expected conditions throughout the week anyone can do well and gain a big lead which is what happened in the last race.'
Martin, 18 from Carsington Water Sailing Club, has competed at the annual event twice posting a third in 2011 and first in 2012; winning selection to represent Great Britain at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships where he finished ninth.
'Last year I won the event and was selected to go to the ISAF Youth Worlds which was a great experience but I messed up my chances with a few black flags which ruined my overall result. I definitely want to go back and make amends for what happened last year which means me winning the event this week!'
2012 European Sailing Federation RS: X Youth Champion Joe Bennett is hot on the heels of Martin as he clinched a bullet in the final race of the day, determined not to let last year’s champion take an unassailable lead on day one of the regatta.
Saskia Sills was a cut above the rest in the youth windsurfing ranks throughout 2012 and has started her second RYA Youth National Championships off strong with a consistent 5-4-3 to lead the female fleet. Noelle Finch lays sixth overall, five points behind Sills while Imogen Sills, twin sister to Saskia, lies seventh.
In the smallest fleet of the regatta with six boats, James Henson and Olivier Greber dominated proceedings in the Spitfire class as they nailed a hat-trick of race wins ahead of 2012 ISAF Youth Worlds gold medallist Tom Britz and his crew Abbie Hewitt who secured three seconds to keep them within touching distance of the top spot.
'It was a great start to the event' said Henson on their three bullets. 'We were definitely hoping to get some good counters in on the opening day but to get three wins is a lot better than what we had expected.'
Greber continued: 'We have done a lot of work over the winter working on our routines and have been preparing hard for this event. We actually really enjoy the shifty conditions and it has been pretty unpredictable but we played it quite well and we love the breeze as well so it’s been a great opening to the event.'
Henson and Greber have been sailing together for just under two years and finished last year’s event in fourth, however since last year’s champion Rupert White has now moved onto the Olympic programme, the pair from Dorset feel this could be their year.
'The fleet is going to be competitive this week and Tom (Britz) will provide stiff competition, but we have re-evaluated a few things over the past year and now have our sights set firmly on the ISAF Youth Worlds spot at the end of the week.'
Joining the Spitfires on Race Course B situated between Largs and Cumbrae was the 420 class where Tim Riley and Luke Burywood lead the way with a 1-2-5 from their three races today. James Taylor and Tom Lovesey posted a 5-4-1 putting them second overall and Scotland’s Callum Airlie and Joe Butterworth sit just behind in third with a 7-1-4 for their efforts today.
Burywood said: 'I think they were definitely the hardest conditions we have ever sailed in, it was really tough today! We are happy with our results and will continue to move forwards throughout the week. I have only been sailing the 420 for six months so we are not putting ourselves under too much pressure, although it would still be nice to do well!'
Leading the charge in the female 420 fleet is Annabel Cattermole and Bryony Bennett Lloyd. The pair posted a 2-8-3 to see them sitting in fourth overall, 11 points ahead of Jemima Lawson and Lily Summers who finished the opening day with a consistent 9-6-9.
Out on race course area A, where racing was split into four separate flights and being the largest fleet at the regatta with 110 boats, the Radials saw three races take place with conditions a lot colder than on the inner courses. Edward Jones finished today top of the leader-board with two bullets and a third to his name. Ellie Meopham finished one point behind in second and leads the female fleet ahead of Ellie Cumpsty who sits third overall after two wins and a fifth.
In the larger Laser standard rig, last year’s Radial champion Michael Beckett dominated the fleet posting bullets in all three races with reigning Laser Standard champion Hector Simpson in second and Jack Preece in third.
The regattas international competitors from New Zealand showed their steel on foreign waters in the 29er fleet as they took the early advantage with two race wins and a third to cement themselves at the top of leader-board. Matt Venables and Will Alloway occupy second with a steady 4-2-2 while the sibling pairing of Rob and Emma Loveridge are third.
Duncan Truswell, RYA Youth Racing Manager, commented: 'We had a great days racing today with a full programme of racing in all classes across the four course areas. Racing with the backdrop of some great scenery and snow on the hills was a real spectacle and I am sure we will have got some great images.
'Whilst the conditions were very cold, the were from a sailing perspective very good, offshore and quite shifty around 12 – 16 knots making the racing tight, exciting and a real test of tactics and strategy and picking the right side and shift rather than pure boat-speed. These conditions make it tricky for the competitors to remain consistent, keep a track of the opposition and not get caught out with any big scores on the first day.'
Truswell concluded: 'The overnight leaders all managed risk effectively, making sure not to get caught, stuck out on the extremities of the course on the wrong side of a wind-shift or in a big hole in the breeze and pretty much all the anticipated runners and riders have largely maintained clean score-lines. The week is shaping up to be a hard fought contest in demanding conditions, tomorrow will be see the first presentations of the yellow bib’s to identify the leaders so the pressure will start to build.'
Racing is set to resume at 10.55am tomorrow (Tuesday 2 April). Conditions are set for an East-North Easterly 10-12 knots with temperatures remaining cold.