Upon hearing the news that Roger PALMER, principle race officer, had abandoned the last days racing at the RYA Youth Championships and Trials 2004, competitors anxiously held their breath to hear news from RYA youth selectors.
Up for grabs were places in the RYA British Youth Squad where sailors will move onto receive training from the countries best coaches including ex-Olympians. As well as earning a place in the prestigious squad nine sailors were announced for a coveted spot in the RYA British Team for the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2004 to be held in Poland during July.
From the beginning of the week it has been an emotional roller coaster for the 300 competitors racing. In the 29er class, that this year is not being selected for Poland, and in the Hobie 16 the winners have been a step above the rest. However in the Laser Radial, 420 and Mistral sailors have not made the selectors job easy forcing them to spend an extra hour in the meeting room. Ex-Olympian and previous gold medallist at the ISAF Youth World Championships and chairman of the selectors, Stuart CHILDERLY said,
"When I was competing at the Olympics I got really nervous about making the right decisions and being on the selection committee for this week I had a lot of similar feelings trying to pick the best team".
The pressure on Stuart and his team of selectors can be understood. The ISAF Youth World Championships are regarded as the Olympics of youth sailing and has highlighted a number of past youths who have gone on to international glory. Ben AINSLIE and Iain PERCY have all been selected from this event to represent Great Britain at the ISAF Youth World Championships and have all moved on to Olympic glory thereafter.
The weather for the week was particularly light and the first and last days racing were cancelled because of it. Nevertheless, race organisers did a terrific job in starting many races for the competitors from all over the United Kingdom.
Tristan JAQUES and Alain SIGN from Stokes Bay had no trouble sailing in the light airs winning the 29er fleet by thirty seven points and rightly earning their place in the RYA British Youth Squad. Throughout the week the pair discarded a fifth and a second winning the nine other races. In second place were James STEWARDSON and Tom MORRIS from Ullswater Sailing Club who were relieved to have not raced on the last day narrowly beat Justin VISSER and Simon WHEELER from Lymington.
With the Laser Radial Youth World Championships in Brisbane coinciding with the trials selectors are postponing their decision to choose a female for Poland until a later date. With the absence of a handful of sailors the ninety-seven competitors racing inside Pwllheli Bay still enjoyed incredible racing with the final score being incredibly close. However as the abandoned flag was pulled to the top of the mast, so Richard MCCULLOUGH flew the flag for Northern Ireland winning the event by three points from fellow country-man, Andy MCKEE from Dovestone. Only one point behind was John beatty from East Down.
In the girls fleet Collette BLAIR from Bewl Valley Sailing Club had a convincing victory often challenging the boys for the lead. Collette finished fourth overall, eighty-five points in front of local girl, Sarah WILLIAMS.
Discarding their two worst results, being a first and a second, Tom PHIPPS and Jon COOK from Restronget convincingly won the Hobie 16 class therefore making the decision for the selectors easy. After only sailing for a year and training hard the pair can now look forward to preparing for Poland. In the meantime as Tom and Jon explain, they have the Hobie 16 World Championships to look forward too.
"Before the event we were not expecting to win, but finishing in the manner we did and after only sailing for a year we now have much more confidence especially with the Open World Championships around the corner that will be excellent preparation for Poland".
In the two remaining classes selectors had a tougher choice on the menu. Before the event began there were no safe bets in the 420 class on who would earn their ticket to Poland. After racing was abandoned for the day it was still not clear whether overall winners Pippa WILSON and Harriette TRUMBLE from Lymington and boys winners and last years runners up, Jonathon MCGOVERN and Stuart BITHELL would be certain of a place for Poland. However selectors went with the results and the obvious skills of the sailors, much to the delight of Jonathon and Stuart.
"This is the crowning achievement. It does not get much better other than to win in Poland. Last year we were runners up and after swapping positions in the boat we are thrilled to have been selected".
Similarly Pippa WILSON and Harriette TRUMBLE have also had an interesting build up to the event. Following an operation on her wrist, Pippa was out of sailing for some time as Harriette explains,
"With Pippa off sailing, I trained all through the winter with other helms to become the best crew that I could be. We still have a long way to go and know the areas that we have to work on but are delighted that we have not only been selected for Poland, but also won the event. Especially after only sailing back together again since February".
In the Mistral fleet the announcement of Richard POTTER, who came second overall to Peter BIRD from Largs and Jilly BROMLEY who finished eighth overall and third girl, shocked a few members of the audience. However it was the two windsurfers who were more taken aback by the announcement. Richard, who after finishing second was already on the journey home was convinced that he had blown his chances.
"What a waste of petrol! I was on the way home depressed and pretty miserable thinking I had lost it but I received a phone call telling me of my place in the team. It was the best phone call I could ever receive and am already focusing now on Poland and will be training hard, certainly on my light wind technique".
Similarly in the girl's fleet, Jilly BROMLEY was amazed that her name was read out at the prize giving. Jilly, who is sixteen in June has three years left in youth and Stuart CHILDERLY felt that she has a vast amount of potential to fulfil in that time.
"The coaches that were watching the racing were incredibly impressed with Jilly especially as she is only fifteen and we feel she has vast potential. As for Richard, he has been led by people who know about windsurfing and from his results over the last year he has proved himself more than worthy for a seat on the plane to Poland. We feel that his straight line speed and technique will stand him in good stead to bring back a medal from the World Championships".
Also chosen for the team was Nick THOMPSON from Lymington who was selected at the UK RYA Olympic Trials for the Laser Standard. Having finished fifth overall and winning the last race Nick had convinced selectors in Weymouth that he was worthy of a place in the RYA British Team and travelled to Pwllheli for the presentation of the team.
Organising the championship and the 191 boats racing was John DERBYSHIRE, RYA Racing Manager who commented, "I am really pleased with the Championships and how they have gone. From the sailing that I have seen the standard has been excellent and it seems that the competitors immensely enjoyed their time at Pwllheli Sailing Club, whom I would like to thank for their kind hospitality. I would also like to thank all the volunteers who made the event a success and the selectors who have chosen a team I have every confidence in and may I wish the best of luck to them and all the sailors competing this week".