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11 July 2009, 07:16 pm
Experienced Crews Shine On Day One Of 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship
New Zealander Sam MEECH in the Laser Radial
New Zealander Sam MEECH scored two runaway victories on the opening day

Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2009
Buzios, Brazil

The 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship launched into action in Buzios today with the experienced names in the fleets making the early running.
After months of preparation, close to 300 of the world's top sailors representing 60 nations finally hit the Bay of Buzios today for the opening races of the 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship. After two races completed across all seven events, experience is the common denominator amongst the leading crews, with the top standings all dominated by teams who featured at the championship in Århus last year. Seven different nations currently occupy the top spots: France, Germany and Great Britain got the European challenge off to a strong start; Australia and New Zealand both hold a top spot apiece; whilst Hong Kong and Singapore are at the forefront of the Asian challenge. The hosts Brazil also made a strong start with four of seven crews holding top-10 positions.

Weather-wise it was a challenging opening. Racing began in conditions similar to yesterday's practice race, with a mid-range northerly wind around 10-15 knots, but as the day progressed the breeze got lighter and much shiftier.

The two windsurfing fleets were the first to return to the boatpark after zipping through their scheduled races. Oliver-Tom SCHLIEMANN, bronze medallist in 2008, is the early leader in the Boy's RS:X, whilst Hong Kong's Hei Man CHAN, competing in her fifth Youth Worlds, leads the Girl's fleet.

The first race of the 39th edition of the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship was won by Israel's Ron ASULIN in the Boy's RS:X event, coming in just ahead of defending champion Michalis MALEKKIDES (CYP). SCHLIEMANN came in fourth, battling back through the fleet after a bad start. In contrast, race two "was pretty much perfect" according to the 18 year old from Berlin, with victory lifting him to the top of the leaderboard. Schliemann leads a three-way tie on five points with Joseph GUEGUEN of France and 2008 gold medallist MALEKKIDES.

In the Girl's Windsurfer fleet, Hong Kong's CHAN leads the way with second and first place finishes today. Izzy HAMILTON (GBR) shone in the opening race held in her favoured mid-range conditions, but Chan took over the show as the wind dropped for race two. Chan has been competing at the Youth Worlds since 2005, and now at her fifth and final edition, she's desperate for the medal that has eluded her so far. Even though the leaderboard points to a near-perfect start, she wasn't happy with her performance, "I made several mistakes; I fell into the water and bumped into a mark. Izzy was really good and had great speed. I've got plenty of room for improvement and I'm sure I'll do better tomorrow."

HAMILTON is just one point behind Chan after a 1,3 start, with third place Leonore BOSCH (FRA) just one point further back.

One of the standout performers of the day was New Zealand's Sam MEECH in the Boy's Laser Radial fleet. After winning bronze last year, MEECH has set an early course for gold with two wins today, both secured by a huge margin. The New Zealander has already established an impressive 11-point lead after the shifty conditions in race two left the reminder of the fleet all counting at least one high score already. Yan CHEKH (RUS) and Matej VALIC (SLO) were best of the rest and are tied on points in second and third respectively.

In the remaining fleets the shifting wind resulted in the late finish as the second races were all restarted. Mathilde DE KERANGAT (FRA) was the major beneficiary in the Girl's Laser Radial fleet, as she was struggling in the second race before it was abandoned and then went on to win the restarted race two held in the lighter, shiftier breeze. "I was sailing really fast, took good decisions and read the shifts well," was her summary of an excellent opening day.

Heidi TENKANEN (FIN), like DE KERANGAT a top-10 finisher at last year's Youth Worlds, scored a big win in the opening race but dropped to 13th in race two to lie second overall. Another trio of experience Youth Worlds campaigners, Isabella BERTOLD (CAN), Elizabeth YIN (SIN) and Michelle BROEKHUIZEN (NED), complete the top-five.

Great Britain won gold in both the Two Person Dinghy fleets last year and today Philip SPARKS and Ben GRATTON (GBR) showed they'll be tough to topple from the top again this time around. On the back of their recent win at Kieler Woche, the young Brits sailed two great races to top the leaderboard with a 1, 2 scoreline. More unexpectedly, Chile occupy second place, with Benjamin GREZ and Carlos VERGARA following a fourth with a narrow win over the Brits in race two. After a big shift during the upwind leg, the Chilean pair rounded the top mark in first place and whilst SPARKS and GRATTON used their speed downwind to close the gap, GREZ and VERGARA just held on to take the gun.

"We came here with a lot of hours of training," explains GREZ of the team's surprise showing today, adding, "We had a very good day, but it could have been better." He says they alternate their training between Chile and Argentina and although they don't get to as many international events as they'd like to, they're happy with their preparations. "Even though we've got a low profile, we were planning a good championship and now, after today, we're really happy."

The Singapore crew of Griselda KHNG, 2006 Optimist Worlds runner up, and Cecilia LOW take top spot in the Girl's 420 fleet. A fifth followed by a win in race two puts them three points ahead of the Italians Camilla MARINO and Claudia SORICELLI. The heavily tipped Brazilian team of Martine SOFFIATTI GRAEL and Kahena KUNZE also started strongly and lie third overall with 2, 7 scores.

Australian cousins Jason WATERHOUSE and Lisa DARMANIN made a perfect start in the Multihull - Hobie 16 event, winning both of today's races. Waterhouse won bronze two year's ago in Canada, before teaming up with DARMANIN and finishing sixth in Århus last year. APP sailors Matthew WHITEHEAD, silver medallist last year, and Calene LOUBSER (RSA) lie second with the Dutch team of Rob SPRIJ and Mathijs PAULI, competing in their fourth and final Youth Worlds, in third.

At this early stage France lead the Volvo Trophy standings for the top-performing nation, ahead of current trophy holders Great Britain, Italy, Brazil and New Zealand.

Tonight all the competitors have the opportunity to attend the first post-race debrief hosted by ISAF Coach Santiago LANGE (ARG). As a double Olympic medallist and veteran of America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race campaigns, the Argentinean is one of the biggest stars of South American sailing, but is looking forward to taking up this new challenge.

"It's a big pleasure for me to be here but it's also a big responsibility," he says. "It's something new for me but it's a great opportunity and I'm really looking forward to working with so many sailors from all around the world."

Following on from their post-race debrief tonight, the sailors have a busy day to prepare for tomorrow. Racing continues in Buzios on Sunday with three races across all events. The first starts are scheduled for 12:00 local time (15:00 UTC) and the forecast is for light and shifty winds.
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