by Matt Carter
At the RYA Youth National Championships, sunshine and variable winds ranging from five to 15 knots made for some challenging conditions for the 333 sailors vying for championships honours today as the RYA’s premier youth racing event reached the halfway stage at Largs Sailing Club.
Annabel Cattermole and Bryony Bennett Lloyd 420 - 2013 RYA Youth National Championship
Sailors have battled against the elements over the past two days and today was no different with large, unpredictable shifts proving challenging for even the regattas most experienced sailors.
Competition was fierce in the 29er class with sailors being split into gold and silver fleets at the halfway stage. Mimi El-Khazindar and 2012 RYA Youth National Champion Ben Batten thrived in the extremely variable winds as the pair from Lymington posted two seconds, a first and discard of sixth, leaving them in third overall. Owen Bowerman and Morgan Peach finish the day top GBR boat in second overall after a 18-4-1-3, with the pair trailing the leaders from New Zealand by nine points.
'Today was a good day, we are happy with our performance in the difficult conditions. The first race was really tough, we had a bad start and then lost a lot of our options up the first beat which is never ideal but I think we recovered well. It could have been quite easy to fall into the mind-set of thinking that we had lost the first race but we managed to put that behind us and posted some good results in the following three races,' explained Bowerman.
'Racing in the gold fleet today was certainly a lot more competitive than the last couple of days where we were racing in flights. There are some really good sailors and it’s great fun sailing against top competition. It’s also nice to have some overseas competition from the Kiwis and the Irish as they are pushing us all the way. The Kiwis are tough, they are fast and manage to read the shifts really well!'
With Bowerman and Peach topping the pack of GBR boats, the ISAF Youth Worlds spot is the main priority, however the 2012 29er Euro Cup Series champions are still keen to catch their international competitors.
'Obviously at this event our main aim is the ISAF Youth Worlds spot as this is what we have been working towards over the past year, but to beat the Kiwi boys would also be nice, if it’s not this week then I’m sure out paths will cross again in the future,' said Peach.
Saskia Sills RSX - 2013 RYA Youth National Championship
In the RS:X Windsurfing class reigning champion Saskia Sills found form at the midway stage of the regatta as the Cornish windsurfer posted 5-8-5 to reclaim her position at the top of the female leaderboard from Noelle Finch who posted her worst score line of the regatta with a 10-9-7.
'Today was a much better day for me,' said Sills. 'Yesterday didn’t go my way as I was on the wrong side of every shift. The racing this year is really tight but I’m happy that I have managed to create a seven point gap at the top. Noelle [Finch] has been racing really fast this week and there are a number of other girls who can all win races, but I just need to concentrate on my own performance and not worry about what the other competitors are doing.'
Kieran Martin RSX - 2013 RYA Youth National Championship
In the boy’s fleet Kieran Martin continues to reign with another impressive display adding two bullets and a second to his almost flawless score line of seven points from the nine races completed. Joe Bennett is providing stiff competition with a 1-4-2 from today’s racing, however he requires a slip-up from Martin in the penultimate day of the championships tomorrow if he is going to challenge for Championship honours.
Scott Wallis and Josh Voller 420 - 2013 RYA Youth National Championship
It was a test of nerves in the 420 class as only four points separated the top five boats as they entered the business end of the regatta. Scott Wallis and Josh Voller showed their steel as the pair elevated themselves to the top of the leaderboard with a first, fourth and a discard of 12th while yesterday’s overnight leaders Tim Riley and Luke Burywood slipped into second. Callum Airlie and Joe Butterworth are third with Annabel Cattermole and Bryony Bennett Lloyd fourth, both on 28 points, only four points off the leaders.
'We were expecting today to be a lot windier than it was, when we launched it was gusting 15 knots however when racing began it completely dropped off to around five knots, gusting an average of seven which was quite nice in the end,' explained Wallis.
'There is a big group of us in the 420 class who are all of a similar standard so our aims entering the regatta were to finish within the top three. Our up-wind speed was good today along with our tactics. We are pleased with our position but know that there are still two days left of racing in which anything can happen.'
Tim Riley and Luke Burywood 420 - 2013 RYA Youth National Championship
Riley, who competed at the event last year with his older brother and who sits only one point of the top spot, is expecting it to go right down to the wire on the final day of championship on Friday with the talk of Match Racing a possibility.
'I am looking forward to it! It’s much more fun when it goes down to the last race of the regatta when you are battling it out your with your mates for the top spot. It’s great to have such a good competition and to also get on really well with the sailors within your class.'
Burywood added: 'I think it’s all going to depend on the points on the final day, it’s pretty close, but if we are literally as close as we are at the moment on points then we may have to start thinking about Match Racing. We will just have to evaluate the points and look at the risk and rewards and go from there.'
Michael Beckett Laser Standard - 2013 RYA Youth National Championship
The Laser Radial class is proving triumphant once again for 2012 RYA Youth National Champion Ellie Meopham as the Welsh sailor posted 5-6 in two out of the three scheduled races in the gold fleet today, cementing her position 18 points ahead of Edward Jones in second. Robbie Robinson is third while Ellie Cumpsty sits fourth overall, and second girl. Michael Beckett continues to rule the Standard fleet with another bullet and a discard of sixth. Andrew Green is second while last year’s champion Hector Simpson lies third.
In the smallest fleet of the Championships, Tom Britz and Abbie Hewitt continued their fine form from day two increasing their lead at the top of the leaderboard with two race wins and a second while second placed James Henson and Olivier Greber posted 4-1-4 to sit only one point off the top spot with two discards in place.
Duncan Truswell, RYA Youth Racing Manager, said: 'Today was a real challenging day, most fleets launched in 12 – 14 knots in the Largs Channel which never quite made it out to the North of Cumbrae where both the Orange and Pink course had set up shop. In the end the breeze in Largs Channel decayed by lunchtime and we were out chasing our tails in the variable breezes further North whilst the RS:X’s had concluded their day and were feet up on shore.
'I have to say the race teams find days like today as challenging and frustrating as the competitors and they did a really good job in very difficult conditions, like us they are doing their best to deliver quality, fair racing despite variable breezes and some big holes in the breeze rolling in from the East at times.
Truswell concluded: 'Most of yesterday’s leaders managed to keep their heads and stay at the front of the fleets when today could have easily been high scoring and left them with a lot to do, whilst the order has mixed up a bit, in the main most of the key players from the beginning of the week are still in the game and that reassures me that despite the conditions the old adages of getting your head out of the boat, looking for the pressure and playing the shifts are still paying off.'
Racing is set to resume at 10.55am tomorrow (Thursday 4 April). Conditions are set for another day of North Easterly breeze, but stronger in the region of 10 – 13 knots.