#ISAF YOUTH WORLDS - Four years of hard graft by the Dublin Bay 2012 organisers comes to a head tomorrow with the start of the Four Star Pizza Youth Worlds, the 42nd ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships.
Dun Laoghaire welcomes 350 sailors aged 14-19 years of age from 63 nations, plus their coaches and team leaders, for the annual highlight of the youth sailing calendar, known as the Youth Olympics of sailing, which begins tomorrow Saturday 14 July running till 21 July.
After a highly competitive bidding process, organisers in Dublin were honoured that Ireland was chosen to host this much celebrated event, which is renowned for providing the world with its first glimpse of future sailing stars and Olympians.
“We have been waiting four years for this, so it is really exciting,” says Brian Craig, chairman of the Dublin Bay 2012 organising committee. “Everyone is buzzed up - there is great enthusiasm among the sailors. It’s great. For us it is a chance of a lifetime to run an event like this.”
A five-boat Irish team will join the sailors competing in a total of eight classes, including the Laser Radial singlehander, the 420 doublehander, the RS:X windsurfer, the 29er skiff and the SL 16 multihull.
These classes are directly relevant to the Olympic Games, the 420 being the small version of the Olympic 470, the 29er being the same equivalent to the 49er and so on. This is no coincidence, as Craig explains.
“This is the pathway to the Olympics, so to get an event like that here in Ireland is superb for us. It is bringing all the top sailors here. For all our youth sailors around the country, they are going to see all these role models.”
In fact, some of the world’s top sailors are former Youth Worlds winners. Stu Bannatyne, recently arrived into Galway as a watch leader on CAMPER in the Volvo Ocean Race, won in 1989, while his skipper Dean Barker won in 1990.
Others include Tessa Parkinson, who won the 420 girls’ title in 2004 with Elise Rechichi before both graduated up to the 470, winning Olympic gold for Australia at Beijing 2008. Parkinson is in Dun Laoghaire as a coach for the Australian team.
“There is a high correlation between people that win medals at the Youth Worlds who then go on and win Olympic medals,” she says “It definitely is a big platform. In Australia if you get a good result at youth level, you can get a position in the development squad for the Australian Sailing Team and it is a way to progress up through the Olympic classes.”
Parkinson has fond memories of Ireland as here she sailed her first ever international regatta in 2001. “This is a great venue for the Youth Worlds. The courses are so close to the club and everyone has been so friendly.”
An impressive aspect of the ISAF Youth Worlds is the number of sailors from overseas taking part, with 63 nations being represented in Dun Laoghaire - including some first timers such as Oman.
Moreovr, 25 sailors have been subsidised to be here by the ISAF’s Athlete Participation Programme. Among the nations supported are Chile, Guatemala, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Serbia and Ukraine.
Racing sets sail tomorrow for all eight classes, with two races scheduled for the start at 12pm.
The Royal St George Yacht Club, the National Yacht Club and the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire have been appointed to host the championship in association the Irish Sailing Association (ISA), and the weekend kicks off with a public celebration to complement the first races in the championship.