Opening charge by Gratton and Riley
Hayling Island today witnessed some superb sail racing as the nation’s finest Youth sailors and windsurfers utilised the near perfect weather conditions as the 2011 RYA Volvo Youth National Championships got underway.
With the sun shining and winds ranging from 10-20 knots, 420 sailors Tim Gratton and Ed Riley stole the show, finishing the day top of their fleet. The twosome, who recently won silver at the 420 Youth World Championships, posted a steady seventh in their first race followed by two impressive firsts to assert their authority.
Crew Riley commented: “We had a terrible start in our first race and just didn’t get out the blocks quicker enough. We gave ourselves such a challenge following a bad start that we were actually quite pleased with posting a seventh.
"Callum and Drew Airlie absolutely creamed us in the first race and we are pleased to have had a good day's racing. It came as a surprise when we realised it was the Airlie brothers so I guess you could say they are the new kids on the block!”
Helm Gratton, whose brother Ben won 420 ISAF Youth Worlds gold in 2009, added: “The fleet is very strong this year and it is early days to call who will be crowned champions come Friday. The weather conditions today were very similar to what we raced in at the Worlds in Argentina, which I guess is why we did well. Argentina gave us both great experience, which we are hoping will help us in these Championships.”
Nia Jones and Molly Frost are leading the way for the girls' laying an impressive fourth overall, after winning the opening race of the regatta. Jess Lavery and Georgie Mothersele sit hot on their tails just a point behind.
The windsurfers in the highly-anticipated RS:X class as always bought an impressive calibre to the racecourse. Connor Bainbridge, last year’s silver medallist, dominated in the first and final race. However, last years RS:X champion, Sam Sills was determined not to let Connor grab all the headlines as he posted a 2, 1, 2.
Bainbridge commented: “Todays conditions were excellent for me and I hope the wind continues to stay strong throughout the week. I was disappointed with my second race as I lost complete concentration, didn’t go the right way and also the wind died, which affected my racing.
"Sam is always my toughest competitor and I was disappointed not to beat him at last year’s Championships. I am determined to win it this time around and win selection for the ISAF Youth Worlds.”
Just three points divide the top three British girls, Kate Strange leading Noelle Finch and Jade Rogers, with the trio laying in 13th-15th overall.
Sailing in their first RYA Volvo Youth National Championships together, Rupert White and Nicola Boniface proved their new partnership to be a success with a consistent 2-1-2, despite a slightly embarrassing moment with Boniface falling overboard in race one.
Boniface, last year’s champion and two-time ISAF Youth Worlds competitor, commented: “We didn’t have the ideal start to the Championships; it was our first downwind of the whole event and a piece of elastic snapped, leading to me falling overboard! We ended up falling back to last place but pulled back up to finish second in the race, which was pleasing."
Callum Ellis and Will Harris, who finished seventh in the 29er class last year, closed the day at the top of the 29er fleet with 4-1-1. They were made to work for their lead in every race in a highly-competitive fleet, with James Bollingbroke and Tim Walton hot on their tails with a 2-2-2 and Henry Lloyd-Williams and Sam Batten, last year’s champions and silver medallists, at the 29er Youth Worlds finishing with a disappointing 5-3-3. Ruth and Tess Allan are the top ranked British female crew.
With the Radials boasting the biggest fleet of the Championships, 112 boats will contest a qualifying series of six proposed races. The fleet is split into four groups and boats will be assigned to final Gold and Silver fleets based on their ranking after qualifying. After three races on day one, Elliot Hanson heads the pack posting two consecutive bullets followed by a third, ending the day on five points. Rheanna Pavey is the highest placed British girl.
For the first time the Youth Nationals welcomed international sailors from Denmark and New Zealand. Danes Mads Emil Lubeck and Marie Thusgaard Olsen and New Zealand's Molly Meech are the top performing international teams, currently lying third in the 29ers and Radials respectively, while Georgia Schofield (NZ) is the top ranked female in the RS:X fleet.
On what was termed 'Ladies Day' double Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton and former ISAF Youth Worlds 29er champion Frances Peters presented a talk about girls’ sailing opportunities to the sailors. Earlier in the day three of the classes that are potentially being considered for the proposed 2016 Olympic women's Skiff - the 29er XX, Rebel and RS800 - were showcased on Hayling Bay.
Racing is set to resume at 10.55am. Conditions are set for another great day with 16-18 knots forecast and more sunshine.