A total of 149 young sailors competed in US SAILING's U.S. Youth Sailing Championship for the coveted National Championship title, but only four sailors could take home the honours.
Charleston Harbour has been packed with these young competitors since last Saturday, and yesterday the winners were crowned: Michael SCOTT (Kaneohe, HI) won the Laser class, Cy THOMPSON (St. Thomas, USVI) was victorious in the Radial class, and Erik STORCK and Killarney LOUFEK (Huntington, NY and Costa Mesa, CA) won the Club 420 class. The winners of the National Championship have been named to the 2004 U.S. Youth Sailing Team. Hosted by the College of Charleston with co-host Carolina Yacht Club, the event was sponsored by Vanguard Sailboat and West Marine. Gill is an official supplier to the event.
With a 22-point lead, Radial sailor Cy THOMPSON did not have to sail the last race but opted to race anyway and did so impressively with a horizon job. Thompson, age 14, sails for St. Thomas Yacht Club where he started sailing Optimist dinghies at age 8. He prepared for the event by sailing every day for two weeks, two hours a day - alone and without a coach. Scott said that his key to winning was, "conservative starts, never being over early and figuring out the current."
Thompson's total score of 14 points in 11 races (including 8 bullets) was 34 points ahead of second place sailor, Leah HOEPFNER (Corpus Christi, TX), who jumped into second place on day two and never relinquished her position. David HERNANDEZ (Miami, FL) rounded out the top three in the 23-boat Radial fleet.
In his fourth trip to the U.S. Youth Championship, Hawaiian Michael SCOTT was determined to win and dominated the 30-boat Laser fleet with 48 points in 11 races. His best finish at the U.S. Youth Championship prior to this year's was seventh at last year's event. Scott, age 18, started sailing El Toros at the Kaneohe Yacht Club at age 9. More recently, Scott has sailed keelboats and done some match racing, which he says has made him smarter. He said that his plan for the Championship was to, "sail conservatively, but when I knew I had a chance to win, I really went for it."
He added, "I felt I had a lot of experience over everyone."
On the last leg of the final race, Todd HAWKINS (Ocean Gate, NJ) passed one boat to overtake Thomas BARROWS (St. Thomas, USVI) by one point for second place overall. Bryan BUFFALOE (San Diego, CA) who was in the lead earlier in the week, dropped to fourth place with an 11th in the last race.
By winning the event, Scott has received the Robert L. Johnstone III Trophy and has qualified to sail in the U.S. Singlehanded Championship for the O' Day Trophy to be sailed in Bayshore, NY, on August 11-15, 2004.
The big shake-up of the week came in the final Club 420 race. Knowing they had to beat leaders Adam ROBERTS and Nickolas MARTIN (both from San Diego, CA,) defending champion Zack BROWN with crew Graham BIEHL (also both from San Diego) started the race on top of Roberts/Martin and caused them to tack away right after the start, forcing them to be out of phase from the beginning. Meanwhile, Erik STORCK and Killarney LOUFEK started cleanly at the other end of the line. All three teams were way back in the competitive 48-boat fleet at the first mark. Storck/Loufek systematically picked off boats both upwind and down to crawl back to fifth place. They were closely followed by Brown/Biehl in sixth. Roberts/Martin were not as successful, crossing the line in 21st place, just one point behind Storck/Loufek for the Championship. Brown/Biehl held onto third place with 66 total points. After getting back on shore, Erik Storck attributed his team's win to, "good boatspeed, never getting frustrated and beating one boat at a time."
Storck and Loufek take home the Manton Scott Memorial Trophy.
The David M. Perry Perpetual Sportsmanship Trophies were awarded to the sailors voted by their peers as most sportsmanlike in each fleet. The awards went to Sean KELLY (San Francisco, CA) in the Laser fleet, Allie BLECHER (Fullerton, CA) in the Radial fleet, Club 420 skipper Evan ARAS (Annapolis, MD), and Club 420 crew Jimmy ATTRIDGE (Hanover, NH). Aras and Attridge each started the Championship as 420 skippers and lost their crew to injury early in the event. They submitted a request to the jury asking if they could team up for the remainder of the event. Their request was granted and 19-year-old Attridge agreed to crew for 15-year-old Aras - they finished 30th overall.
For more information about the 2004 U.S. Youth Sailing Championship, including complete results, daily reports, and photos, please visit the event website at the address below.