On Sunday 1 July the free online racing and training game, SailX.com, hosted the final six regattas in the 'Virtual ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships' - a championship that has been running 24/7 for the past eight weeks.
In total 551 individual competitors entered the Championships, of which 141 were classified as Youth entrants (under 19 years of age on 31 December 2012). Over this eight-week period, SailX hosted 1,270 highly-competitive Championship races involving just over 8,500 championship race boat finishes. This corresponds to 85 days solid of (highly engaged) user racing time.
And that was just the Championship racing. On top of this and over the same period, 2,407 SailX users raced a further 6,212 'practice races' involving 81,107 boats race finishes (an average of 12 boats per race) and spent a total of 810 days fully engaged in racing. On top of this, this group spent even more time watching racing, discussing protests (in excess of 80,000 incidents were automatically ruled by the Rules Engine, from which 7,336 protest flags were raised and 750 protests were filed) and chatting with other racing sailors from all over the world.
To get a feel for the level of competition take a look at the following video of racing http://youtu.be/nxpU0dq82tI
and at a real protest discussion http://ow.ly/c0DLw
(click 'hide/show racelet' top right of screen to see a replay of the incident in question).
With 30 protests still under discussion in the SailX Protest Room (all racing is held in strict accordance with the ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing), the final full classification remains 'Provisional'. But we are delighted that we can now announce the podium line-up, as all protests involving these individuals have now been resolved.
In the end the Youth Championships was won by 'IRL711' who, having opened up a significant lead mid way through the competition, managed to stay ahead of the chasing pack for just long enough. Today we can finally reveal that 'IRL711' is in fact Cian Walsh, a top Irish Optimist sailor who counts Galway Bay Sailing Club as his home club. Well done Cian - you did a fantastic job and are a worthy winner of this inaugural Championships!
Behind IRL711 / Cian, second position was claimed by 'greg77515' from the UK and '249' (Luis Gonzalo Rios Lujan originally from Lima, Peru but now living in Paris) - just a few points adrift. Commendations and commiserations must also go out to 'mirrorking', 'Kaenon23' and 'LP17' (4th, 5th and 6th) who came close but unfortunately didn't make the podium despite herculean efforts.
In the General Classification (no age restriction) the most interesting aspect was the incredible performances of the Youth entrants against more experienced competition - and despite their smaller numbers (151 Youth vs. 410 older). Top Youth sailor 'IRL711' / Cian took 2nd place overall, 'greg77515' took 3rd and 6 of the top-10 placed finishers overall were also classified as Youths. However, in the end 'IRL711' (Cian Walsh) couldn't match 'flow' (Steve Hunt, two-times Etchells World Champion, Congressional Cup Winner, 7-time member of the US Olympic Sailing Team, 2-time All-American and regular 'Sailing World' contributor) who once again asserted his position as the man to beat! But Steve didn't win by much - and only finished 1.7% ahead of Cian - being pushed hard all the way!
It will be interesting to observe over time how these results translate to on-the-water performance by these Youths as they grow older but one thing is for sure, if SailX has anywhere near the impact of other serious / training simulations (e.g as used in the military, flight schools, etc.) then we are witnessing the coming of age of some young and very talented tacticans with skills and experience far beyond their tender years. The next generation is coming - watch out!!
In the Nations Trophy (based on Youth results), the winner was the United Kingdom from a total of 51 nations, followed by Ireland in 2nd position (home nation for the real world event starting on 12th July in Dublin) and New Zealand in third. While it was very close for a while between the UK and Ireland the UK prevailed when the pressure came on, with a deeper talent pool - despite the efforts of the final Youth winner 'IRL711' and his fellow Irish representative 'markh' who finished eighth Youth.
Top-3 Youth (under 19 years of age on 31 December 2012):
1 IRL711 / Cian Walsh, Galway Bay Sailing Club.
3 249 / Luis Gonzalo Rios Lujan from Lima, Peru
Top-3 Overall (no age classification)
1 flow / Steve Hunt from San Diego
2 IRL711 / Cian Walsh, Galway Bay Sailing Club
Nations Trophy (based on Top-10 Youths in each Nation)
1 United Kingdom
3 New Zealand