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26 June 2005, 11:11 pm
Continental Challenge
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Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2005
Busan, Korea

All five continents will be represented at this year's Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in Busan, Korea from 14-23 July. The traditionally strong European and Oceanic challenges, face their toughest test yet as the world of youth sailing gets ever bigger.
The ISAF Youth Worlds is well known as an event that introduces future sailing stars to the limelight, but with the help in recent years of the ISAF Athlete Participation Programme, it is also an introduction to competitive sailing for developing sailing nations, who have yet to feature at some of sailing's grander senior events. With the ISAF Youth Worlds such a seemingly accurate guide to the future, not only can it be used to identify future individual stars, but also the progress of sailing nations and even continents. Look for example at the Hong Kong windsurfers, who won medals at every ISAF Youth Worlds between 1998 and 2003 and now occupy five positions in the top 20 of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings for the Mistral Men and Women.
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JIAN Yin's (CHN) is Asia's latest
windsurfing success
© Clive Mason/Getty Images

Asia

Unsurprisingly the Asian challenge at this year's ISAF Youth Worlds looks to be the strongest yet. Singapore, who along with Hong Kong are the only Asian nation to have won a medal at the ISAF Youth Worlds, a silver for Junhao TAY and Dahui OU in the 420 in 2001, are sending a full strength team of ten sailors. The hosts, Korea will also be competing in all seven events and looking to capitalize on the advantage of sailing on home waters.

China, in only their second ever ISAF Youth Worlds, will be keen to develop their Olympic team for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition and field sailors in all events bar the Hobie. Hong Kong meanwhile continue their focus on the windsurfing events with sailors in the two Mistral competitions.

Oceania

Australia and New Zealand are two ISAF Youth World heavyweights who will both be sending full teams to this year's event. It was New Zealand who managed to break the French run of five straight Nations Cup victories in 2002, whilst a year later Australia wrestled the title from their continental rivals. Both countries have twice won the Championship's inter-country competition and both have an outstanding record of youth sailors going on to success on the senior circuit.

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Olivia POWRIE this years
makes the switch from the
420 to the Laser Radial
© 1999-2005 Zeroboard
ISAF Youth World Championship Medal Table
Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
France FRA 16 22 11 49
Australia AUS 18 16 8 42
New Zealand NZL 14 11 10 35
Great Britain GBR 16 6 11 33
USA USA 16 5 7 28
Spain ESP 9 10 9 28
Germany GER 5 10 12 27
Italy ITA 1 6 15 22
Poland POL 8 5 5 18
Israel ISR 6 6 5 17
Sweden SWE 4 4 9 17
Netherlands NED 5 8 1 14
Canada CAN 2 4 4 10
Finland FIN 2 3 2 7
Switzerland SUI 1 2 4 7
Greece GRE 5 2 7
Hong Kong HKG 2 4 6
Brazil BRA 3 1 1 5
Croatia CRO 4 1 5
Argentina ARG 2 2 4
Norway NOR 2 2 4
Portugal POR 1 3 4
South Africa RSA 1 1 2 4
Denmark DEN 1 1 2
Tahiti TAH 1 1
British Virgin Islands IVB 1 1
Singapore SIN 1 1
Ireland IRL 1 1
Belgium BEL 1 1
Guatemala GUA 1 1
Russia RUS 1 1
For New Zealand the 2005 Championship offers the chance to get back to winning ways after a couple of disappointing performances by their high standards. Since winning the Nations Cup in Canada in 2002, they have won only one medal, with Jo ALEH taking silver in the Laser Radial last year. Their team this year includes Olivia POWRIE, a two time ISAF Youth Worlds veteran who will be competing in the Laser Radial this year after having twice raced in the 420.

Where New Zealand have performed below par in the last two Championships, Australia have prospered, picking up five gold medals. As a result they now have won more gold medals than any other nation with 18 and in Busan will be looking to become the first country to break the 20 barrier. In recent years, Australian success has been built on consistently high finishes in the 420 events. For the last three years these have been spearheaded by two times winner Elise RECHICHI and three times ISAF Youth Worlds gold medallist, Nathan OUTTERIDGE. However the Australian team at this year's Championship features new sailors in all five dinghy events, whilst experience comes in the two Mistral events with Alisha KAWALLA, eighth in 2004, and Corey PLANT, 16th in 2003 and sixth last year. So despite their excellent recent record at the ISAF Youth Worlds this year looks like being a major test of the next generation of Australian sailors.

Europe

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Last year Sarah STEYAERT
provided France with their first
gold medal since 1999
© Peter Bentley

Europe might hold six of the top ten places in the ISAF Youth Worlds medal table, but of the top five teams only two are European. Great Britain's Youth Team had been in a lull in recent years. All that changed in Poland last year where the British team walked away with two gold and three bronze medals. However that was not quite enough to topple the French, who remain the most successful nation at the ISAF Youth Worlds. They may not have quite as many gold medals as the Australians but have five more medals in total with 49. In 2004 they won the Nations Cup for the eighth time. An incredible record when their nearest challengers, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia have only won it twice. The secret behind French success is their consistency across all the fleets. Since 2000 France has won only a single gold medal, but taken home the Nations Cup three times in five years.

However the European challenge is not solely about these two teams. Spain lie sixth overall on the medal table and a good Championship from them could see them rise back above the USA into the top five nations. However since 2000 Spain have won only three medals at the ISAF Youth Worlds. Likewise Italy and Germany seem to have struggled at recent Championships with just four and five medals since 2000. Incredibly Italy has won a total of 22 medals at the ISAF Youth Worlds, but only one gold, courtesy of Mattia PRESSICH and Giacomo De GAVARDO in the 420 boys in 2001.

Conversely Poland have proved to be one of the most reliable winners in the last five years with six gold medals - the only team to have more is Australia with seven. Their recent winning form is based on dominance in the Mistral events which can be directly traced back to one sailor. Last year sailing on her home waters Zofia KLEPACKA scored her fourth ISAF Youth Worlds gold medal in a row. KLEPACKA's winning influence seems to be spreading, with Kamil LEWANDOWSKI taking victory in the Mistral boys last year.

The Americas

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Paige RAILEY is the great
American hope for gold in Busan
© Mick Anderson/SEASEE.IT

The USA stand out as traditionally the strongest challenger from the Americas. However like some other nations who had gotten used to success at the ISAF Youth Worlds, the Championship's expansion and the strengthening of the fleets has had a major affect on their recent record. Just three medals have come in the last five Championships, although two of them have been gold. This is a pattern that repeats through the country's history at the ISAF Youth Worlds - very good at winning, but without the consistency of a team like the French. This year the team coming from the USA looks strong though. It is spearheaded by 2003 ISAF Youth Worlds Champion, Paige RAILEY who will be at her fourth Championship in Busan.

Brazil also look like providing one of the toughest challenges at this year's Championship. They are sending a full strength team who will be aiming to add to the gold medals won by Robert SCHEIDT and Ricardo SANTOS. Brazil's traditional rivals, Argentina, will be looking to win their first ever gold medal at the ISAF Youth Worlds. Although they finished last year's Championship medal less, the Argentines put in their best ever performance in 2003 with silver and bronze wining performances to prove the ability in their junior ranks.

It is from the Americas that this year's debutants come as well. El Salvador and the Bahamas make their first appearances at the ISAF Youth Worlds, whilst the US Virgin Islands return after a gap of 20 years.

Africa

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South Africa have enjoyed
their ISAF Youth World
successes in the Laser
© Peter Bentley
In Busan, South Africa will be appearing at their 21st ISAF Youth Worlds. Their most recent success was a bronze in the Laser for John ELOFF in 2001. Three years earlier and in the same event, Gareth BLANKENBERG, won South Africa's and Africa's only ISAF Youth Worlds gold medal.

By contrast the Seychelles will be in only their sixth ever Championship and are still seeking their first medal. This year the two teams will be aiming to build on their previous successes and help build the foundations that will lead Africa to her first ever Olympic medal in sailing.

With well over 200 competitors, this year the field for the ISAF Youth Worlds looks as wide as it has ever been. Without doubt the Championship has a strong Asian focus this year, however whether the teams from Korea, China, Singapore, Hong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Malaysia and Myanmar can convert that presence to results on the water, or whether Europe and Oceania grab the spoils again remains to be seen.

ISAF. Image, Poland's Zofia KLEPACKA has had amazing success at the Youth Worlds for one of the most successful nations in recent years:© Peter Bentley
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