The Youths are over for another year and they were truly amazing! Nearly 400 sailors poured down to Weymouth for an intense week of racing, with squad places up for grabs, ISAF Youth World places to be selected, and reputations at stake. This was my first Youths of a proper Radial season, as last year I jumped into the boat at Largs while still sailing my Topper, so I was keen to do as well as I could after some pretty shocking qualifiers earlier on in the year, due to black flags and other silly mistakes!
A mixed bag of conditions were forecast, so it was a good opportunity for all rounders to show their consistency across the breeze. The first day started off very light and flukey out in the bay, with pressure and shifts being the biggest gains. After a terrible third row start, I managed to do a bit of wiggling and get myself into the top 20 by the top mark. I took about 12 places downwind and rocketed into the top 10 with good pace, to hold on for the rest of the race to finish a solid 6th. The next race was held late in the afternoon, and the wind shut down and went left, leaving me 4th by a long way at the top mark, but the race was abandoned due to lack of wind.
Tuesday arrived with 15-20 knot breeze and big chop, which I was hoping to hang on for, being on the lighter side of the fleet. All the races went similarly, with a consistent set of results all around 10th leaving me in a good position going into gold fleet racing the following day. I was pleased again with my downwind boat speed, taking 15 places downwind in the first race which helped me recover from another poor start.
Finally gold fleet racing commenced, with much more difficult racing as all the top guys were all in one fleet, making starting tricky and lots to loose with any mistake. A decent 13-16 knots filled the course area, along with some very large and steep chop. Again, I kept a fairly consistent scoreline with a 12, 25, 12, which left me 16th overall. However, my downwind boat speed in these conditions was pretty slow compared with the other guys around me, and I lost at least 5 places downwind in every race, and meant recovery in the 25th was far harder than most days. I need to ask Steve about that!
Thursday was lighter at 10 knots, and I started to push it and get some really good results in. The first race was going very well, in 4th at the top mark, but again very poor downwind boatspeed dropped me to 10th. A difficult following race where it felt like the entire fleet was over left me with a poor start and a lot of work to do, but again I didn't have the pace downwind to take places back. The final race went well, spotting more pressure on the right and rounding the top mark 4th, and finishing 8th due to my downwind speed (or lack of it!)
I was 15th going into the final day, but with lots of boats in front who were catchable, and with my favoured light winds predicted, I was looking forward to a good end of the amazing week. We nearly completed one very tricky race, with many shifts and holes to fall into, but it was abandoned half way down the final run. I was 8th in this race, and many of my main competitions were buried in the pack, so it was unfortunate for me but it happens to everyone!
Overall, I finished 15th, a result I am very satisfied with, and I thoroughly look forward to next years Youths! Thank you to everyone who made the event possible, it was pretty epic!