Fourteen aspiring young champions are preparing to represent Great Britain at the prestigious Youth Sailing World Championships, which get underway in Sanya, China, next week (11-15 December).
The selected squad, competing across nine events, will do battle against more than 380 of the world’s best under 19-year-old sailing talents from 62 nations.
Windsurfer Emma Wilson will lead the charge as the most experience team member when she gets set to defend the crown claimed in Auckland’s 2016 edition. At her 2015 Youth Worlds debut, Wilson secured silver and has since gone on to achieve an array of international youth medals and senior top-10 finishes, meaning she is the one to watch in the RS:X girl’s fleet.
“This event is different to other events that I have done. It is a much smaller fleet than say the senior worlds, so the racing is slightly different but the level is super high with all the top youth girls in the world competing.”
Since returning from September’s senior Worlds in Japan, Wilson has been putting in the hours on the water in Weymouth, but is looking forward to heading back out to warmer climes.
“It’s really cool to be part of the team for the 2017 Youth Worlds, I’m excited and looking forward to getting out there,” said 18-year-old Wilson.
Despite heading to China as event favourite, Wilson is not letting the pressure get to her.
“My goal is to try and perform at my highest level, learn as much as I can from the racing and enjoy it all!”
Fellow RS:X sailor Andy Brown will be attending his second Youth Worlds, placing eighth in Auckland. After finishing as runner-up at this year’s RS:X Youth Worlds, the Scot will have his sights set on a podium finish in Sanya.
Both Wilson and Brown are also part of the British Sailing Team ranks with an eye on future Olympic campaigns. Brown juggles university study with training and racing using both the RS:X 8.5 youth and 9.5 senior rigs.
Youth European bronze medallist Ben Whaley will make his Youth Worlds debut in the Men’s Laser Radial event, while Daisy Collingridge is the British Youth Sailing Team’s representative in the Women’s fleet.
Hatty Morsley-Pippa Cropley earned their Youth Worlds call-up after winning silver at the 420 Junior Europeans and will compete in the 420 Women’s fleet in Sanya, with Alex Smallwood-Ross Thompson lining-up for the 420 Men’s Event.
Despite being a relatively new pairing, Nick Robins-Billy Vennis-Ozanne had their sights set on a Youth Worlds spot from the go, booking their berth in the 29er Men’s event following a strong Europeans performance.
Hampshire’s Vennis-Ozanne describes it as a ‘massive honour’ to fly the flag, although admit they do have their eyes on some silverware.
“The biggest goal is to just do everything as normal and the rest will ultimately take care of itself. Most importantly though, it is a stepping stone event so we definitely want to have fun and hopefully come back with a slightly heavier bag.”
The initial Women’s 29er representatives, Hattie Rogers and Emily Covell, have withdrawn from next week’s championship due to injury. A decision from the Selectors will see Bella Fellows and Anna Sturrock head out to China to join the British Youth Sailing Team. Fellows and Sturrock launched their season with Youth Nationals gold, followed by a string of top results across the summer.
Cornish catamaran duo Benno Marstaller-Chloe Collenette round off the British Youth Sailing Team competing on Chinese waters in the Nacra 15.
The Youth Sailing World Championships is a proven talent indicator, with past notable British winners including Olympic champions Ben Ainslie, Sarah Ayton and Giles Scott. Unlike other international events the sailors compete at, the Youth Worlds provides equipment for all the classes, an additional challenge for all the team at the regatta where, just like the Olympic Games, nations can only field one crew per event.
RYA Youth Racing Manager Mark Nicholls said: “We are sending a full British team to this year’s Youth Worlds which includes a defending champion as well as international medallists.”
“Since selection over the past few months all of the team have been working hard ready to showcase their talents on the world stage. We’ve got a strong team with both experienced sailors and rising stars amongst the British Youth Sailing Team ranks, so I think we are in with a great chance of all of the team delivering top personal performances.”
British Youth Sailing Team competing in China:
Alex Smallwood and Ross Thompson
Hatty Morsley and Pippa Cropley
Benno Marstaller and Chloe Collenette
Bella Fellows and Anna Sturrock
Nick Robins and Billy Vennis-OzanneRacing starts on 11 December and you can see the full results on the Youth Worlds website, and follow the team on the British Youth Sailing Team Facebook and Twitter @RYAYouthRacing.