On 12 July, over 250 of the world's best young sailors will line up for the opening races at the 2008 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in Århus, Denmark, but who will be leading the charge for medals?
The competition in Århus ranges across seven different events along with the Volvo Trophy awarded to the best performing nation at the championship. With several of last year's champions returning to defend their titles, the battle for medals in 2008 looks set to be tougher than ever.
Boy's and Girl's One Person Dinghy - Laser and Laser Radial
The reigning Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champions in both the Boys and Girls One Person Dinghy events return to defend their titles in Århus. Pavlos KONTIDES
of Cyprus dominated the Laser series in Kingston last year to win by a race to spare and now, aged 18 and in his last year at the Youth Worlds, he will start as hot favourite for a repeat performance in Denmark. Since winning gold last July, KONTIDES has put in some notable performances on the senior circuit, most impressively at the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Francaise in Hyères, France, where he finished 12th in a fleet including some of the biggest names in the Laser class. His performances have merited him more than just selection for the Cyprus Youth Team and following on from Denmark, KONTIDES will travel to Qingdao, China, where he will represent his nation at the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition. Another leading contender in the Laser fleet is home hope Thorbjoern SCHIERUP
(DEN), who finished sixth in Kingston last year and is an Århus local and therefore very familiar with the local conditions. In total 46 nations will be represented in the Laser fleet this year - a new record for an event at the Youth Worlds.
In the Girl's Laser Radial fleet the 2007 champion will also be defending her title. Last year Gabrielle KING
(AUS) spearheaded her nation's success story, which ended with the Australians winning the Volvo Trophy. Like KONTIDES, she has already built on her 2007 success, most notably winning this year's Laser Radial Youth World Championship in New Zealand.
Looking ahead to the start of racing, KING was crystal clear in her aims for this year, "My goal is now to defend my title at the Volvo Youth World Sailing Championships this July in Denmark and after that I will be training hard so that I can be a contender at senior level,"
Amongst King's principle rivals will be Anne HAEGER
of the USA, who won the silver medal in Kingston last year, and Cushla HUME-MERRY
of New Zealand, who beat King at the Australian Youth Championships in January. Isabella BERTOLD
(CAN) and Chloe MARTIN
(GBR) both also return to the Youth Worlds after top ten finishes last year.
Boy's and Girl's Two Person Dinghy - 29er
In the Boy's 29er event, Nikolai KOLD
and Lars VILHELMSEN
(DEN) have the task of defending the gold medal Henrik Sogaard and Soren Kristensen (DEN) won for Denmark in Kingston last year. Chief amongst their challengers will be the New Zealand team of Paul SNOW-HANSEN
, a silver medallist last year, and crew Ben GOODWIN
. The South Africa team of Taariq JACOBS
and Neil MALAN
will have plenty of motivation after they narrowly missed out on a podium finish in Kingston by a mere three points. The Australians Byron WHITE
and Rhys MARA
also start amongst the favourites after White picked up a silver medal at the 29er class World Champions in Melbourne this year. On top of this, the French, Singapore and British teams showed their strength by winning gold, silver and bronze medals respectively amongst a large 29er fleet at the recent Kiel Week.
The Girl's 29er fleet looks set to be one of the most fiercely contested in Århus. The USA won gold last year and this time round will be represented by Youth World debutants Julia PAXTON
and Karoline GURDAL
. Last year's bronze medallists Hannah NATTRASS
and Michelle MULLER
return to the Youth Worlds is search of another podium finish. Another pair with experience from 2007 is the Dutch team of Annemiek BEKKERING
and Jeske KISTERS
. They finished fifth last year and were the top finishing female crew at this year's 29er Worlds in Melbourne. Meanwhile the Singapore team features Griselda KHNG
, runner up at the 2006 Optimist Worlds, and Cecilia LOW
Boy's and Girl's Windsurfer - RS:X
Two-time Youth Worlds gold medallist Laura LINARES
(ITA) will start as hot favourite for a third consecutive title in the Girl's RS:X windsurfing fleet. The young Italian star spearheaded her nation's triumph in the Volvo Trophy two years ago and again won gold in Kingston last year. She also won bronze medals at both the 2004 and 2005 Youth Worlds, meaning a podium finish in Århus would give her an incredible five ISAF Youth World Championship medals. Amongst the principle challengers who will stand in her way are Patricia FREITAS
of Brazil, Anastasia DAVROU
of Greece, Sybille BOSCH
of France and Hei Man CHAN
of Hong Kong, who all return to the Youth Worlds after top ten finishes in Kingston last year.
In the boy's fleet, silver medallist from Kingston Ron ASULIN
of Israel returns to the Youth Worlds with the aim to go one better than 12 months ago. New Zealand's Josh NIXON
also finished in the top ten in Kingston last year and impressed at Kiel recently with a 20th place finish in the 65-strong fleet including some of the top names from the senior circuit. Charles-Elie NAYRAL
makes his debut at the Youth Worlds and will defend the title Pierre LE COQ
won for France last year.
Multihull Open - SL16
Members from all three medal winning teams at the 2007 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship are represented in the multihull fleet, where competition takes place in the SL16 for the first time. Andrew GLOVER
(GBR) won gold crewing for his older brother Richard GLOVER
(GBR) in Kingston. With Richard is no longer eligible to compete, this year Andrew teams up as crew to James Ellis to form the British team that will defend the multihull title. Jacob DANNEFER
, crew for Denmark's silver medal winning team from Kingston, will also be competing in Århus, this time with Simon MICHAELSEN
at the helm. In contrast, from the 2007 bronze medallists Australia it is helm Jason WATERHOUSE
who will again be competing for Youth Worlds glory, this time with his cousin Lisa DARMANIN
The national battle at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship is always amongst the most difficult contests to predict as scores can swing so much from race-to-race. Following each race completed across all seven events, the top four performers from each nation score points (ten points for a first, nine for a second, down to one point for a tenth place finish) which combined give the nation's points score for that 'race'. These 'race' scores accumulate through the series and it is the nation with the highest points tally that will lift the Volvo Trophy. Five different nations have won the Volvo Trophy: France, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and Italy, and they all will be amongst the leading challengers this year.
The host nation, Denmark, will have high hopes of a strong performance on their home waters, especially after they finished as runner up in the national standings in Kingston. Brazil, the hosts of next year's championship, also has a full strength team this year, whilst Singapore look set to head the Asian challenge. The Canadian team features several experienced campaigners from Kingston and will be looking to rival the USA in the North American battle.
The competitors will set sail on the Bay of Århus tomorrow in the practice race before the Opening Ceremony officially gets the 2008 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship underway tomorrow night. Racing begins on Saturday 12 July and continues through until the final race in each event on Friday 18 July followed by the Closing Ceremony.
Follow all the action from Århus including news, results, features, photos, podcasts and more on the 2008 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship website www.youthworlds2008.org
and on the ISAF Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship microsite www.sailing.org/youthworlds