Royal Cork's Johnny Durcan and the National Yacht Club's Nicole Hemeryck are ready for battle at the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships in New Zealand this Friday. Both the Irish sailors will compete in the Laser Radial class which will see the most countries and possibly the most diverse experience levels of all the fleets taking part.
When the racing begins in Auckland on December 16, the Irish sailors will meet time international racers, Youth Olympians and even senior level Olympians.
The girl's fleet will boast three Rio 2016 Olympic competitors who will feel they can push for the podium positions in a competition where sailing as the only country representative is few and far between.
Uruguay's Olympic flagbearer, Dolores Moreira Fraschini and Malaysia's Nur Shazrin Mohamed Latif represented their countries at the summer Games and so did last year's Youth Worlds champion, Hungary's Maria Erdi.
Speaking about her title defence Erdi said, "I'm very excited. I've been waiting for this event all year and it's finally here. I can't wait to see all the people. I was only racing in the open fleet this year and I was missing the youth fleet a lot. It will be also interesting to see how much the girls have improved.”
Some of those girls focussing on improvement are the competitors from the emerging nations like Venezuela's Nicolle Gonzalez and Egypt's Khouloud Mansy who have been getting in some last minute coaching in New Zealand from the World Sailing nominated experts.
Realistic about her chances, Mansy said, "I'm looking forward to it because it's my first time taking part. I know I'm not going to get the best results but I came here to do my best and for the whole experience. Make new friends. The weather. The event as a whole and just gradually improving.”
Gonzalez is taking a different approach and praying for the right conditions to give her a little edge, "I hope that it's not too windy. Ideally I want 5-7 knots and if it is those kinds of conditions I hope to be near the top of the fleet. If not, I just have to do my best and take the experience forward for next year.”
As well as international regatta novices and Olympians, there is also the returning 2015 silver medallist from Germany, Hannah Anderssohn. Anderssohn will resume her dual with champion Erdi from Langkawi, Malaysia last year.
Also in the mix will be Aruba's Odile van Aanholt who holds a Youth Olympic Games (YOG) silver medal in the Byte CII from Nanjing 2014.
There will be a new champion in the boy's section as Australia's Alistair Young is aged out paving the way for New Zealand's George Gautrey and Great Britain's Daniel Whiteley to move up from the respective silver and bronze medals they won in 2015.
As Gautrey and Whiteley return, two sailors either side of the pair in terms of Youth Worlds experience are Guatemala's Matias Rosenberg Callejas and Slovakia's Patrik Melis.
"It's my first Youth Worlds,” said Callejas, "I'm just 14 and hopefully I will have four more Youth Worlds after this and I want to do the best now and then make sure I do better next year. This year is more about experience.”
Returning to the Youth Worlds, Melis is very much excited about the challenge ahead, "Of course I am looking forward to it. It's going to be my third Youth Worlds and I want to improve my results from the last two years. New Zealand is a great place and I'm really going to enjoy it.”
There is also some YOG experience in the boy's fleet with sailors like Teariki Numa (PNG) and Asri Azman (MAS) as well as the Nanjing 2014 Byte CII winner, Bernie Chin from Singapore.
The Laser Radial boys fleet will begin at 10:55 local time on 16 December and the girls fleet begin at 11:10. Both have two races.