#sailing on Saturday – How many of the hundreds of contestants in the Four Star Pizza Youth Worlds getting under way in Dun Laoghaire this weekend will go on to achieve adult fulfillment as international sailing stars?
As with other sports, sailing sometimes has a problem in translating junior success into longterm adult achievement. Suddenly, the sheer pressure of expectation and achievement results in a complete turnoff in the enthusiasm of rising stars. They may even rebel by taking up golf or gardening.
Yet when we consider just some of the names of sailing greats who first came to prominence through the Youth Worlds, it would be obtuse not to be swept along in the wave of enthusiasm which this massive championship is engendering.
People like Russell Coutts, Ben Ainslie, Chis Dickson and Robert Scheidt have emerged as stars of the future from the Youth Worlds. Irish sailing also has its host of Youth Worlds graduates, the best-known being Olympic Silver Medallist David Wilkins, and this year's Olympic participants Peter O'Leary, David Burrows, and Annalise Murphy.
In addition to trophies for individual sailors and crews, the all-squad Nations Trophy provides a significant extra dimension, with France the defending title-holders. Their entry Groupama having clinched her win of the Volvo Ocean Race in Galway last weekend, the French team are under extra pressure to keep the title. But – hear this – they're up against 350 young sailors from 63 different nations.
The Youth Worlds is just that – totally worldwide, utterly global. The Irish squad are Sophie Murphy (Laser Radial, Strangford Lough), Finn Lynch (Laser Radial, Dun Laoghaire), Patrick Crosbie & Grattan Roberts (420, Cork), Alexander Rumball & Rory McStay (SL16 Catamaran, Dun Laoghaire), and Sean and Tadhg Donnelly (29er, Dun Laoghaire).
Necessity being the mother of invention, the current financial restraints on campaigning cruiser-racers in far-flung events has been giving the spin doctors a merry time. It doesn't do the job to describe a regatta with a significantly lowered entry list as being small but perfectly formed. But boutique will do very nicely, thank you.
So we'd a boutique series for the Scottish championship back in June, as scarcely any Irish boats could afford to go, and they're usually 30% of the entry. Now in Crosshaven they've coined the handy phrase "Boutique Week" for this year's Cork Week. But though numbers may be down, the sport is quite something, and heavy hitters such as Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens from the Netherlands, Mike Bartolomew's Summit 40 Tokoloshe from South Africa, and Jamie McWilliam's sister-ship Peninsula Signal 8 from Hong Kong have been having mighty racing.
Meanwhile the seasoned campaigners of the International Dragon Class have been quietly building a head of steam towards their main event, the Gold Cup in Kinsale in September. The 2012 programme's focus on Ireland has got off to a useful start with a good turnout for the Edinburgh Cup on Belfast Lough, and an excellent result for the home squad, the title going to Simon Brien who finished tops with defending champion Martin Byrne of Dun Laoghaire in the runner-up slot.
Foncia skippered by former Figaro star Michel Desjoyeaux took third in this week's Krys MOD 70 Transatlantic Race at an average speed of 24.96 knots.
And on this Bastille Day morning, Vive la France! They're defending champions in Dublin Bay for the next week, they topped the Volvo Race leaderboard in Galway a week ago, and in recent days while we've all been grumbling about the weather, the first four of the new French-inspired MOD 70s have been scorching across the Atlantic from New York to Brest at speeds well in excess of 30 knots, with the leaders averaging better than 25 knots all the way cross the pond.
An MOD 70 is a state-of-the-art trimaran, 70ft in length and so light the all-up weight of one of them is less than the 8.7 tons of a Volvo 70s keel. Developed during the past three years, they've anticipated the proposed future setup of the Volvo boats by being one design. But as with any mighty leap, resources have been stretched, and though nine boats have been started to build in France, to date just five have been commissioned.
Coming to a bay near you....the fantastic new MOD 70 class will be in Dublin Bay in September. They've just completed their first Transatlantic Race with the winner and runner-up crossing in less than five days from New York to Brest, averaging better than 25 knots.
However, for their first big international event, this week's Transatlantic dash, they secured the sponsorship of Krys. Solid backing, this – they're the French equivalent of Spec-Savers just in case your google persists in steering you towards a Cayman Islands-based global insolvency consultancy, or various pop stars.
Anyway, with Krys to clarify the vision, they got four of the boats to the US where they made a formidable impression in Newport before racing down to New York, with Steve Ravussin and his team on Race for Water taking the honours on that initial sprint. It was from Manhattan on Sunday that they zoomed away into the Atlantic, but the early leader (it was Ravussin again) impacted with what is believed to have been a container, so he'd to slow back and didn't get to Brest until last night, in fourth place.
That a damaged boat could still cross the Atlantic in less than six days gives some hint of what was happening among the three which were still in the hunt. They were screaming along. First to finish on Thursday in 4 days 21 hours and 8 minutes was Yann Guichard's Spindrift Racing, an average of 25.3 knots. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, skippered by Sebastien Josse, also was above 25 knots, while third placed Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux), was just under, clocking an average of 24.96 knots.
So it's a beautiful Bastille Day in Brest this Saturday morning. And the MOD 70 show will be coming to Dublin Bay in September – hang onto your hats.
W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays