The 2014 ISAF Youth Worlds will welcome experienced SL16 heads and fresh 29er faces when racing commences in Tavira, Portugal on 14 July 2014.
Sixteen teams featuring several former medallists will fight it out in the Open Multihull SL16 fleet whilst a number of new Open Skiff 29er teams will make their ISAF Youth Worlds debut in the 30-boat fleet.
Leading the SL16 charge will be defending champion Micah Wilkinson with new crew Jack Rogers (NZL). Wilkinson sailed to gold with a day to spare in 2013 with Isaac McHardie and recalled the event with fondness, "Winning the youth worlds last year was definitely a highlight,"
said Wilkinson. "I felt extremely proud to represent my country and win, it was also a great relief after all the long and sometimes strenuous hours we put into our campaign."
For 2014 Wilkinson and McHardie have gone their separate ways with the latter sailing in the 29er with Markus Somerville. Wilkinson is now looking forward to racing and aiming for further success with Rogers, "Having a good sailing buddy, Jack, to sail and represent my country with is a bonus. Narrowly winning Oceanbridge Sail Auckland against our good mates Markus and Isaac this year was an awesome achievement for Jack and I."
Brazil's Kim Vidal won SL16 gold in 2011 and bronze in 2012 as crew with Martin Lowy. As Lowy moved into the Laser Radial Vidal took to the helm in 2013 and finished fourth, just two points off Great Britain's James Henson and Olivier Greber in bronze medal position. Vidal will take control again in 2014 with crew Antonio Lopes.
Vidal has battled closely with the British and Kiwi teams in recent years and is looking forward to taking them on once again, "It's going to be a competitive race. I don't see how this could possibly be bad. I love the way that these guys [Kiwis and Brits] sail.
"For sure there are lots of good sailors who are going to be there. I'm not the only one who they will have to take care of."
Great Britain's Henson and Greber edged out Vidal and Lopes in 2013 to take bronze and as Greber moves to the back of the boat for 2014 he welcomes crew Jessica Eales into the Youth Worlds and has his eye on the prize, "It is definitely a big goal for me to improve on the bronze medal from last year,"
explained the 18-year-old. "It is going to be a tough year, especially as we are a new partnership, we've only been sailing together for five months but we've been doing everything we can to improve and it is going well so far."
The 2013 SL16 World Championship concluded on 4 July with France's ISAF Youth Worlds team Louis Flament and Charles Dorange laying down a marker as they stormed to gold in the 49-boat fleet. The French pair said, "Our goal now is to win the Youth Worlds and we will try to best represent France."
Spanish Youth Worlds team Jordi and Ruben Booth finished as runners up to the French team and will also be in the medal hunt in Tavira.
At 13-years-old Henri Demesmaeker (BEL) is somewhat of an ISAF Youth Worlds SL16 veteran and will make his third appearance. Demesmaeker finished fourth in 2012 at just 11-years-old and tenth in 2013, with plenty of years ahead of him in the Youth Worlds the young Belgian will be one to watch with crew Emile Vanholsbeke.
Of the top 20 29er teams from the 2013 ISAF Youth Worlds only eight sailors out of a possible 40 return to the regatta.
Hoping to draw upon the experienced gained in 2013 will be New Zealand's Markus Somerville and Isaac McHardie.
McHardie won gold in the SL16 whilst Somerville took bronze in the 29er with Jack Simpson and they have one aim, "As you can probably expect I want to go bring back another gold for New Zealand,"
remarked McHardie. "I would love to replicate gold into the 29er and Markus and I will do all we can to do that."
With plenty of newcomers coming into the Youth Worlds mix up McHardie and Somerville aren't too aware of what their rivals have to offer but have the experience and Youth Worlds nous behind them, "I'm not actually too sure what nations will be our biggest rivals, as we haven't done a lot of sailing against the rest of the world. It will for sure be nice having the exercise of been to a Youth Worlds before and I think it will help us out a lot,"
After a fourth place in 2012 and a sixth place in 2013 America's Quinn Wilson returns to the Youth Worlds with new crew Riley Gibbs. Wilson has consistently been amongst the front runners in the 29er fleet and finished eighth at the 2013 29er Worlds. Wilson and Gibbs come into the Youth Worlds with strong results from North America and will be amongst the leading teams once again.
France's Brice Yrieix and Loic Fischer Guillou head to Portugal in good form after picking up bronze at the recent 29er European Championship at Kieler Woche. The French team were the highest placed ISAF Youth Worlds team finishing ahead of rivals Emil Jarudd and Fabian Bergman (SWE).
Slovenia's Peter Lin Janezic and Anze Podlogar and Spain's Nil Mas and Jordi Llena also put in strong performances at the 29er Europeans and will be gunning the podium spots.
The ISAF Youth Worlds commences on 12 July and runs through to 19 July. Racing kicks off on 14 July at 13:00 local time.
ISAF Youth Worlds Website