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23 July 2003, 04:15 pm
Jim Saltonstall MBE
Jim SALTONSTALL, centre with the Volvo Trophy, at the 1995 Youth Worlds
Jim SALTONSTALL, centre with the Volvo Trophy, at the 1995 Youth Worlds

ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship
Canical, Madeira

This is Jim's 25th ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship 23 of which he spent as a successful GBR Team leader, winning countless medals and seeing many of the world's best sailors go on to Olympic, America's Cup and Senior World Championship success.
He was RYA Senior Racing Coach from 1977-2000, which included responsibility for the GBR youth programme and GBR youth team, and Olympic Team Coach in 1996 and 2000. He is the author of several books, including the RYA Race Training Manual.

ISAF had a chat with the Charismatic coach after one of his famous, post racing video debriefs, and got his thoughts and ideas on the Youth Worlds, the sailors, and life as one of the world's most famous freelance coaches.

Jim, you've been to more Youth Worlds than anyone else, what's your role at this event?

I'm the ISAF World Youth Sailing Trust (WYST)Coach. The WYST fund me basically to look after all the teams that don't have a team leader or coach, to give them advice on the SI's, help them sort the boats out, with tuning, help with protests etc. All the things which need to be done at a Championship like this.

What do you think of the standard of sailing here compared to past events?

Well, when you look at the sharp end of all the classes here, in my amateur opinion the standard is very good. Some of the youth sailors here, as in the past will leave this event and in 12 months time go to the Olympic Games for their country. Look at Ben Ainslie, a Youth World Gold medal in 1995, and an Olympic silver medal in Atlanta '96.

What about the standard of race management?

The Race Committee are having many difficulties with water depth and in my opinion are doing the best with what they've got. It's a shame that the whole thing is windward/ leeward because variety is always a good thing, but when you've got 3-400 metres of water what can you do?

What's the best part of the championship so far?

Generally speaking I am very impressed with the attitude and behaviour of the competitors. All the debriefs we've done have been fully supported and they all have a positive attitude when it comes to learning. And the friendly attitudes between nations. What I'd basically say is the event has a great spirit.

Manufacturers always do a fantastic job with regards kit, and keeping it all in a good condition, they bend over backwards to help. Alberto and his team at Nautivela have done a truly excellent job, and the same with Performance Sailcraft who have provided the Lasers.

How do you think the Youth Worlds prepares youngsters for a future in International Racing?

It's a great system, this is the most prestigious youth event in the entire world and sailing is the most challenging sport in the world. To give these ?ferrets? the opportunity to come here and have a coach and learn things that they can then take away from the Championship and use at future events is phenomenal.

Once they have experienced this, it puts them on the next rung of the ladder on the way to the top. It's great experience to do a full 12 race, international regatta with only one discard. And it's tough, bloody tough. The whole event gives them more character and confidence.

Look back at the early 80's, I saw Russell Coutts get a gold medal, and Chris Dickson won three gold medals. Sally Cuthbert won Four?Four Gold medals! The list of top sailors is endless but they have all been through the system.

Has anyone caught your eye yet as the next Russell Coutts or Ben Ainslie?

Not yet, ask me at the end of the regatta and I might be able to tell you. No one seems to have stood out in the 420 or Lasers and yesterday was my first visit to the Mistrals. But I'm sure there will be. What really matters now is the next three days. The Championship has barely really started and following the lay day today, what will come out is who can stand the pressure over the next three days.

What do you think of the ISAF Athlete Participation Programme?

In theory it's a very good idea as it brings increased numbers into the youth family, but I have reservations in that you have to be very careful who to send. If you send someone who is still learning to sail than this will be a complete culture shock to them and it may have the reverse effect ? to put them off sailing [Ed note: the ISAF Athlete Participation Programme is selective in its criteria to ensure suitability of sailors on the programme]. I do support the concept though.

What's been your favourite ever Youth Worlds moment?

Bermuda 1995 when I was the team GBR couch. We came back with three Gold medals. The Cuthbert Twins (Sally and Jesse), Nick Rogers and Pom Green, and of course Ben Ainslie in the Laser, who 12 months later went on to win an Olympic silver medal in Atlanta along with John Merricks, god bless him, and Ian Walker. In 1995, Great Britain won what was then the Nautica Cup, which we did again in 1996. But they've all been good in their own way.

What was it like being part of the British medal haul in Sydney and do you think any nation will ever repeat it?

Well I sat at the Medal Ceremony on the steps of the Opera house and had to take some time out. I thought ?The last 23 years have all been worth it?. All but a few of the team had come through the system, Iain Percy, Ben Ainslie, Shirley Robertson, Nick and Jo. I always thought that leading up to Sydney we had the potential to win six medals, and now, in my opinion as a freelance coach I think that GBR in Athens are every bit as good as the team in Sydney, it's mostly the same culprits!

What are your plans for the future?

Well I am back with Stuart Childerly and his Etchells team defending the World Championships in Greenwich, Long Island in September, as well as some more youth training in the UK. I'm also contracted to the RYA for 44 days each year, doing whatever they ask me to do.

And who do you think is in the running for the Nations Cup this Year?

Australia. They have a very strong team this year, they are throwing a lot of points in the double and single handers.
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