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420s at the 2024 RYA Youth Nationals

by GBR 420 Association 19 Apr 17:01 BST 1-5 April 2024
2024 RYA Youth National Championships © Jon Cawthorne

Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy played host to the biggest UK festival of youth sailing for the second consecutive year. All of the youth classes, 420s, 29ers, ILCAs of various sizes, and NACRAs were joined by IQfoils for five days of racing in and out of Portland Harbour.

Most of the 420-fleet arrived on Good Friday to enjoy two days of coaching with Jess Libby and her team. The weekend delivered some good training conditions and no rain! Sunday the fleet took a rest from sailing, but many hit the books with exam season just around the corner.

The top male/mixed and top female teams this week take the coveted Youth Worlds place representing Great Britain at the event this summer in Italy.

Monday morning was bright and decent breeze, not the gales that had been expected in the run up to the week. The fleet launched on time and took the long sail into the bay to the course shared with the NACRA class. Four races delivered and Harry George and Ralph Cawthorne were the overnight leaders starting the event, having sailed a consistent series and delivered a bullet in race four. Arwen Fflur and Matthew Rayner also delivered a race win in race one, but an 11th pushed them down the rankings, George and Olivia Creasy won race three, George having been on the podium in the previous two Youth Nationals with a different crew. The final race winners were Imogen Wade (also a previous podium finisher at Youth Nationals) and Hugo Valentine, but a very inconsistent day put them on the backfoot. Merle and Sabine had also made their mark on the event and sat in second at the end of day one.

Tuesday, saw far more breeze and just three races planned but the fleet launched as planned this time in the harbour. Imogen and Hugo kicked off race five with a win, with William Fletcher and Ethan Sparkes taking race six and Arwen and Matthew race seven. A very consistent set of results from the latter and the first discard saw them take the lead overall.

Wednesday was a day of frustration for the 420 fleet, conditions were great for the 420 but the fleet were held ashore to spend six hours on tenterhooks in a wetsuit. The 29ers launched and returned without a race delivered and all racing was abandoned. By now it had also begun to rain and there was no prospect of it stopping.

Thursday was much the same as Wednesday, big breeze with some gusts in the upper 20knts. The race team wasted no time in launching the 420s for four races again in the harbour. Arwen and Matthew continued their winning streak taking races eight and nine, making it three in a row. Imogen and Hugo took the other two races. The mixed team of Joe Jones and Hennie Burlton (also U17s) had been consistently just behind delivering a slew of top five finishes, arguably the most consistent pair. George and Olivia Creasy were similar having got off to a shaky start. The performance of the mixed teams (irrespective of who sits up front) demonstrates the incredible progress the 420 class has made in equality.

Further evidence of this is the performance of the all-female teams, Sabine Potter and Merle Nieuwland delivered an almost perfect set of results inside the top 10 despite the breezy conditions not normally favouring the lighter crews. Emma Breese and Charlotte Beardsall also sailed with incredible consistency, no mistakes, no UFDs or DNCs and secured their place firmly in the top 10. Ellie Creighton and Bea Greenfield made it three all-female teams in the top 10. Noa Moskovitch and Gabs Burlton, last years Youth Worlds team, had a run of challenges having to contend with two UFDs on day one and a boat breakage. Sadly, this saw them just outside of the top 10, and the medal race but they claimed a well-earned with in race 12.

Friday was medal race day and race 12 for the remainder of the fleet. Only slightly less breezy than Thursday there was a lot of pressure to not make a mistake for the top 10. Arwen and Matthew were safe in the top spot, but the following five places were all hotly contested. William and Ethan delivered the win and saw themselves jump to the silver medal position, George and Olivia took second which secured George's third consecutive third at a Youth Nationals and Harry and Ralph took third seeing them jump up three places on the final day. Joe and Hennie who had been sitting in podium spots all week slid to 6th having had some issues in the crucial medal race.

This was a mentally and physically challenging week but the sailors we spoke to had learned loads and really enjoyed it. We caught up with a few after the event finished:

'Super breezy, super fleet, super competitive. What's not to love?' Arthur & Zac bow 16 and 9th overall.

'I had an amazing time. It was really windy and the racing was so exciting. It was probably the strongest winds and waves I've sailed in. Joe is such a good helm that we didn't capsize at all even though the gusts were over 30 knots. There were four races on two of the days and I ate a chocolate bar between races so I had four chocolate bars plus they give you delicious food when you finish! I loved it. We also got to listen to speeches from Hannah Mills and Nick Dempsey who both won Olympic medals. They were super interesting.' Edie crew of bow 10, 17th overall and the youngest crew at just 12.

Full results can be found here.

The British 420 Nationals open soon - a full program with four days racing and social program - watch here for a special promotion for early entries.

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