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2024 RYA Youth National Championships

by RYA Press 8 Apr 16:59 BST 1-5 April 2024
2024 RYA Youth National Championships - Annabel Vines and Amelie Hiscocks, 29er, GBR 3079 © Paul Wyeth / RYA

Top youth talents take home national titles

Winners crowned at the 2024 RYA Youth Nationals Championships

Over 300 of the UK's best young racing talents battled it out in tough conditions at the 2024 RYA Youth National Championships, held at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy during the Easter break (1-5 April).

The latter half of the week saw strong winds leading to a disrupted schedule, but race management teams made the most of improved conditions when they came, with winners crowned across six classes as iQFOiL windfoilers joined sailors in the 420, Nacra 15, 29er, ILCA 6 and ILCA 7 fleets at the pinnacle youth racing event.

Several competitors picked up back-to-back Youth Nationals titles, with Nacra 15 pairing Sam Cox-Sophie Raven (Restronguet SC/Exe SC) and iQFOiL rider Darcey Shaw (Parkstone YC) adding to their 2023 victories.

Chris Marsh (Royal Hospital School) managed to successfully step up from his 2023 ILCA 6 title to claim the ILCA 7 win this year, while Royal Lymington YC helms Finian Morris and Annabelle Vines picked up consecutive titles in the 29er male and female categories, racing in new partnerships for this season in the form of Charlie Gran (Hayling Island SC) and Amelie Hiscocks (WPNSA). For Annabelle it's her third straight Youth Nationals title, having also won in 2022 in a mixed pairing.

After a successful pilot last year, the event staged Olympic-style medal racing on the final day for the 420 and ILCA 6 male fleets as well as a knockout medal series for the iQFOiL. The iQFOiLers also experienced a mix of slalom and course racing formats for their opening series, although the strong winds put paid to planned sprint races as part of the the 29er fleet's opening series.

"What's great about the RYA Youth Nationals is that, whether you're pushing for the front of the fleet or you're here for the first time, it's a great learning and development opportunity for your sailing," said RYA Youth Racing Manager Oli Woodcock.

"It's been a great week. We've had a mix of conditions, some challenging conditions for everyone whether that was the race officers or the sailors. I've seen some really good courage and determination in these challenging conditions."

"For people for whom it's their first event, hopefully they've had a really good time and have learned a lot about how to sail the different classes," Woodcock continued. "For people that are pushing for medals, hopefully it has given them a chance to practice performing under pressure, getting ready for the internationals in the summer."

Competitors were fortunate to welcome a number of British Sailing Team names throughout the week to help encourage and inspire them.

The event welcomed British Olympic stars Hannah Mills and Nick Dempsey to officially open the event on Easter Sunday. The two-time 470 Olympic Champion Mills and three-times Olympic windsurfing medallist Dempsey reflected on their past experiences of the Youth Nationals, and urged racers to learn every day, to be patient and to enjoy the experience and the friendships they would make.

Tokyo 2020 Olympian and ILCA 7 sailor Elliot Hanson and Formula Kite riders Katie Dabson and Lily Young also called in for Q&A sessions, and ILCA 6 athlete Hannah Snellgrove, recently selected for her first OIympics at Paris 2024, shared her journey with the young sailors on Friday and awarded medals and trophies at the prize-giving.

Competitors shared their enthusiasm for the event, with ILCA 7 sailor Henry Redmond commenting: "There's been really good communication through the app, there's been stuff on every day for everyone, workshops for parents throughout the day and it's also good to have an event with all the other classes, and see what classes are out there."

ILCA 6 Female winner Amelie Hacker said: "It's competitive racing, but when you come on land everyone is just so supportive."

ILCA 6 silver medal winner Megan Thomson added: "I think it's really good that I can meet all my old friends who I was in the junior classes with. It's just a really great week of racing to round up the winter training."

Across the fleets

ILCA 6 Female

Amelie Hacker (Aldeburgh SC) sailed away with the win in the female ILCA 6 fleet with the help of six race wins from the 12-race series. Silver went to Megan Thomson (Island Barn Reservoir SC with Millie Lewis (Medway YC) picking up bronze.

Amelie said: "It was an aim going to the event that I wanted to try to win it but there's obviously some very tough competition and especially with Megan on my tail all week.

"We had a variation in conditions, [the week] started off light and we had to do a lot to recognise all the [wind] shifts and everything. And then it ended with a lot of breeze and boat speed, so we've had quite a range [of conditions] and it was really good."

ILCA 6 Male

Thommie Grit (Royal Hospital School) took the overall victory in the ILCA 6 Male fleet, which saw the joint largest entry across the classes at 51 boats.

Thommie added to his 2022 title, rounding out his impressive week with a second place in the double-points medal race to finish on the top step of the podium ahead of Hamish Collingridge (Waldringfield SC), the top under 19 competitor, and Leo Yates (Island Barn Reservoir SC) in third.

"The first two days we had some still proper good wind, but definitely lighter and trickier conditions, especially the one day we were out in the bay," said Thommie of the conditions throughout the regatta.

"[Friday] and the past two days have just been hardcore, just hiking hard. So we've had a good mix of everything - bit of the tricky stuff, bit of just hiking. It's been nice, nice to come out of it on top."

ILCA 7

Royal Hospital School could celebrate two Youth National Champions, as Chris Marsh followed up his 2023 victory with gold in the ILCA 7 after stepping up to the larger rig.

Chris won with a 14-point margin and the help of nine race wins across his 12 races. Silver went to Henry Redmond (Covenham SC) with George Colquitt (West Kirby SC) taking home bronze.

Chris said of his transition to the ILCA 7: "To make the change into the bigger rig from last year, I've had to really focus on gaining a lot of muscle weight, really, to compete with the older boys. But it's been a pretty good challenge so far."

On his Championships, Chris explained: "The first two days of the week when it was a bit lighter it was quite close with me and the other two boys in the top three so I struggled a bit there, but I tried to keep as consistent as possible. I think my worst result was a fourth and second, two seconds and a fourth I got in the first two days."

29er

The 51-boat 29er fleet saw some fierce battles out on the water, with Finian Morris (Royal Lymington YC) adding to his 2023 title with a 2024 gold alongside Charlie Gran (Hayling Island SC). They were delighted with their progress as a new team.

Finian said: "It's been really good. We've only started sailing together in January, so it's been quite a short build up, but it's good to get a result."

Charlie added: "We've come from very different boats, and I was only helming just before Christmas, so it's totally new. I couldn't have done it without Fin. Like, it was great just to have the stick under control and then I could do my job."

Under 21 pairings Santiago Sesto-Cosby-Noah Fitzgerald (Royal Lymington YC/WPNSA) and James Crossley-Sam Webb (WPNSA/Royal Lymington YC) rounded off the overall 29er podium, but the second u19 boat overall and 29er Female Champions were Annabelle Vines-Amelie Hiscocks (Royal Lymington YC/WPNSA).

Also a new pairing since the beginning of the year, Annabelle claimed her second Youth Nationals title alongside her new teammate with the duo enjoying the challenge of racing alongside male and mixed teams at the event.

Annabelle said: "I think it's amazing [to race alongside the boys]. Before the event we had the opportunity to be split into a girls fleet and a boys/mixed fleet, but it's much more competitive with the boys and it's lots of fun to race against them.

Amelie added: "Our goal was for the Youth Worlds spot. We haven't been selected yet, but we've finished as top girls and then our other goal was to be top five and we've ended up in fourth, so we're happy with that. It's really fun to sail with each other."

420

The mixed pairing of Arwen Fflur-Matthew Rayner (Welsh National Sailing Academy - Plas Heli/Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club) successfully held on to their yellow leaders' bibs at the conclusion of the 420 medal race.

They finished with a ten-point margin over the second placed William Fletcher-Ethan Sparkes (Royal Southern YC/Chichester YC) who's higher place in the medal race earned them silver over George Creasy-Olivia Creasy (West Kirby SC) after the two team were tied on points for second and third.

Arwen said: I think we've kept it really simple [this week], we've sailed well and been consistent. It's been a good week."

Matthew added: "In the medal race we needed to become eighth or better. Anything under that, some other boats could have got us. However, we just kept it smooth and simple. Everyone else got a bit preoccupied, as it was closer from second to fifth. So they were all fighting each other and we just kept simple and finished well."

The 420 Female title went to Sabine Potter-Merle Nieuwland (Warsash SC/Cardiff YC), who finished in seventh place overall. Emma Breese-Charlotte Beardsall (Royal Lymington YC/Warsash SC) and Ellie Creighton-Bea Greenfield (Cardiff Bay YC/Oxford SC) completed the female 420 podium.

Sabine said: "It's been a pretty good week. The first few days we were keeping it in the top five most races and then when [the wind] picked up, I think we just tried to play it safe, because we had that lead from the start. Just keeping that gap and playing it nice and safe for us, I think, has brought us this."

Merle said of their medal race: "We went out just to make sure we kind of defended our spot. We didn't really need to attack the spots above us. We just needed to make sure that we were sailing it well, keeping the speed up and staying in the race basically not falling behind or anything. We managed to do that and we managed to keep us between the other female boats."

Nacra 15

Sam Cox-Sophie Raven (Restronguet SC/Exe SC) won a hard-fought Nacra 15 title, overcoming British rivals as well as visiting teams from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands who were competing as part of the class's European Super Series.

It all went down to the final race, with Sam and Sophie edging out Belgium's Mateo LeClercq-Mathieu Pinsart to seal victory. Belgium's Anna Mortelé-Simon Jacobs rounded off the event podium in third, while Eloise Smith-Ollie Laker (Starcross YC/Weston SC) were the top u19 British pair in seventh overall.

Sam said: "On the final day we had two races. Going into it we were one point behind the lead boat so we knew we had to win two and have them come behind us, which is what happened. So we're really pleased with how we sailed. It's been a fantastic day.

Sophie said: "It was a really good week of racing. We had some very close racing with another team and some of the other boats. It was really good to just try our best and see what we can do, and we managed to prove it by the end of the week."

iQFOiL

Will Ziegler (ASC Portsmouth) avenged his disappointment from last year's event where, leading going into the final medal series, he fell foul of the winner-takes-all format to finish third overall.

He led once more after the opening series this year, and held his nerve to see off the challenge from Galahad Bye (Parkstone YC) and Dan Macgregor (Dalgety Bay SC) in the three-rider series final.

Will said: "It certainly feels good. Last year I didn't quite make the cut in the medal race and finished with a third. So this year, [there's] a bit of a redemption, villain arc kind of thing! It feels good to get the win this year. And it's my last year [at the Youth Nationals] so it's nice to finish on a high."

Darcey Shaw (Parkstone YC) was the leading female rider for the second year running, and just fell short of making the medal series final, finishing fourth overall.

"It feels really good to be the champion for the girls again, it's great. I like racing with the boys. They're a little bit faster, so I like battling with them."

Full results are available on the RYA Youth Nationals event website.

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