For now though, the focus was on the six racing days in July that decided the 2006 ISAF Youth World titles and saw Italy become only the fifth nation to lift the Volvo Trophy.
The people of Weymouth and Portland were out in force to join the competitors for a parade along the seafront in a spectacular Opening Ceremony for the 2006 Youth Worlds. ISAF President G?ran PETERSSON (SWE) formally opened the Championship and looked ahead to a great few days of sailing in Weymouth as well as a lifetime of enjoyment on the water. 'Sailing is a lifetime sport and it is here, with a bit of hard work, that you can achieve your dreams.'
For the seven gold medal winning crews, the dream came true. For Laser Champion Luke RAMSAY (CAN) the words of the President were borne out. In preparing for his second and final Youth Worlds, the 18 year old was determined to arrive at the peak of his powers. 'Throughout the spring I had spent endless hours, and countless days preparing for this event. It seemed that every weekend my training partner and I found another regatta to attend, and it was through these small regattas that I learned important skills that were crucial to my success at the Youth Worlds.'
For the 281 sailors, all the countless hours of preparation boiled down to six days' of racing on Weymouth Bay. Out on the water the crews were greeted by bright sunshine, and the RS:X fleet racing in the harbour enjoyed good winds through most of the regatta. Outside in the Bay it was a different story, with great conditions early in the Championship turning predominantly light as the variety of breezes cancelled one another out. However as the racing entered its final stages, the wind returned and the frustrations of the shore side waits soon dissipated as the battle for medals intensified.
Lukasz GRODZICKI (POL) was the sole gold medallist from the 2005 Youth Worlds in Korea who was returning to defend his title in 2006. Last year he dominated the fleet to win with a race to spare and he repeated the trick in Weymouth, seemingly unaffected to the switch from the Mistral to the RS:X. Elsewhere experience also seemed to count for a lot, and of the seven gold medals only one went to a crew in their debut performance. That was the lively Australian little and large pairing of Belinda KERL and Chelsea HALL (AUS), who added to their nation's phenomenal record in the Girl's Two Person Dinghy event. In the last ten Youth Worlds the Aussies have won five gold and two silver medals in the event, with KERL and HALL following in the footsteps of their fellow Western Australians Elise RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON.
In the Girls' RS:X fleet, Laura LINARES (ITA) scored gold after two bronze medals at previous Youth Worlds, whilst Britain's Tom PHIPPS demonstrated superb boat handling skills right through the regatta to also collect his third ISAF Youth Worlds medal, and second gold, along with Richard GLOVER in the Hobie 16.
Compared to the previous two Youth Worlds where Britain had returned with a total of nine medals, the solitary gold for PHIPPS and GLOVER would seem to be a relatively disappointing result for the hosts. Through the fleets the British sailors had speed, but not consistency, an attribute that kept them in the running right the way through the Volvo Trophy standings, as their medal hopes faded elsewhere.
Brazil won the national battle of the South American nations, but Argentina could celebrate when Sebastian PERI BRUSA and Santiago MASSERONI (ARG) lifted the ISAF World Youth Sailing Championship Trophy for winning the Boys' 420 event. The 420s turned out to be the fleet to watch on the final day, with Sam KIVELL and Max TAYLOR (AUS) taking advantage of a poor spinnaker set by the Argentineans to put enough boats between them and their rivals to snatch the title. However a protest by the Argentineans was upheld by the Jury and PERI BRUSA and MASSERONI were back on top of the podium.
Like RAMSAY in the Laser, Laser Radial gold medallist Tina MIHELIC (CRO) put her success this year down to hard graft. It is the third Youth Worlds for the Croatian and having finished fourth in Busan last year she was determined to end her final Youth Worlds in style. 'All this year I have been waiting for this regatta,' she explained. 'This is the one I've been waiting for and now I'm just so happy.'
The Youth Worlds has always been about more than just medals, and amongst the record turnout this year there were plenty of inspiring stories of youngsters upsetting the odds just to even get in a boat, let alone compete on the world stage. The ISAF Athlete Participation Programme aims to take the enthusiasm for sailing so prevalent at the Youth Worlds and spread it as far and as wide as possible.
In the 35th edition of the Youth Worlds, Barbados became the 94th nation to compete in the world's premier youth sailing event. Gregory DOUGLAS (BAR) did his country proud in the Laser, ending the regatta on a high with a series best score of 21 in the final race bumping him up to 32 out of the 44 competitors.
DOUGLAS' interest in sailing began when he was nine years old after seeing the spectacular display of sails whilst walking along the beach back home in St. James. He asked his dad if he could have a try and the two of them began sailing. Since then he has benefited from the strong Optimist programme in Barbados and made the move to the Laser last year.
His mother Dale DOUGLAS accompanied him to Weymouth and explained it had been, 'A fabulous experience. We're absolutely thrilled to receive the support of the APP and it's been a tremendous learning experience for Gregory.' With another two Youth Worlds ahead of him, DOUGLAS' strong showing in Weymouth could be just the first of many steps in his sailing career.
The record breaking numbers at this year's Championship were welcomed everywhere, but also presented a mass of challenges for the organizers. Event Director Rob ANDREWS explained that simply having, 'so much equipment' was a huge challenge in itself, as he looked forward to the prospect of the 15 trucks due to arrive in the days following the event. 'Dealing with so many different nations' was another challenge to hosting such a successful event. For ANDREWS though the rewards of hosting the Youth Worlds and meeting such an array of young and enthusiastic sailors were well worth the effort. 'At the Opening Ceremony to see all those faces, many of them dreaming of coming back in six years. And as long as that many people are involved in sailing and dreaming of sailing, then I'm happy.'
No one better typified this spirit of enthusiasm and ambition better than LINARES. In collecting her gold medal the popular Italian garnered the biggest cheer of the night. She has fought through three Youth Worlds now, picking up the bronze in 2004 and 2005 before her dominant display in Weymouth this year spearheaded Italy's Volvo Trophy success. 'I finally realized my dream,' she revealed. 'Now my biggest dream is to come back here in 2012.'
Whilst the 2006 ISAF Youth Worlds may be over, the memories of Weymouth will not soon be forgotten - and if the determination of talented young sailors like LINARES if anything to go by - neither will the competitors.