Aussie Jacks and Fun French take 2023 Junior World Titles

Article by Ben Remocker

The Junior U23 World Championship for Olympic 49er and 49erFX sailors concluded at Travemünder Woche with competitive racing and up and down the leaderboard. More than 100 teams came to show their skill and compare their progress to their peers as they transition from Youth to Senior racing. After five days of intense competition, two teams emerged as the crowned champions in the challenging offshore winds.

In the 49er class, the Australian duo of Jack Ferguson and Jack Hilderbrand delivered a commanding performance from start to finish. They demonstrated exceptional boat handling, tactical brilliance, and a strong nerve in unstable conditions, securing the lead early in the championship and holding off challengers through Gold fleet racing.

The Jacks, Ferguson and Hilderbrand, sailed an outstanding opening series without a result outside the top ten, setting themselves up well for the more challenging gold fleet. They were up and down in gold fleet, but so was everyone else and their lead from qualifying held. They remained unfazed by the shifty and tricky offshore winds that tested the skills of all participants. Their ability to adapt to changing conditions and make precise decisions on the water allowed them to extend their lead and leave their competitors trailing in their wake.

Second place overall went to eighteen-year-old standout Richard Schultheis with Yoann Bertinn (MLT). The pair led after day one but chased the Aussies from then on. They were always in the hunt for the win but ultimately fell a few points short. This is the best ever performance for a U20 sailor at a U23 49er World Championship, and we’re sure to see more of the Maltese.

Ten countries made up the top 11 finishes, showing both the depth of 49er sailing overall and how important the Junior World Championship stepping stone has become for young sailors. Eleven years ago, when the first Junior World Championship was held in Travermunde, it was a more provincial affair with attendees mostly from Europe and relatively few teams. The Junior World Championship is now a serious marker around the globe, with most nations putting funding and qualification focus on this benchmark rather than sending young teams straight into senior racing.

Not to be outdone, the FX women’s fleet witnessed a thrilling battle among the top contenders. In the end, it was the French Sailors Manon Peyre and Clara-Sofia Stamminger de Moura (ClaSSy DaMe for short) who emerged victorious. Their performances throughout the regatta were characterized by determination as they surpassed a half dozen competitors who pressed for the lead at various points in the regatta, including three men or mixed teams.

Peyre and Stammingers’ relentless pursuit of excellence paid off, as they showcased remarkable speed, coordination, and tactical awareness. Their ability to capitalize on every opportunity and maintain composure in challenging moments ultimately led them to claim the top spot on the leaderboard.

For most of the week they were holding back Italians Sofia Giunchglia with Giulia Schio who finished second women’s team, with Gabriella Czapska with Hanna Rajchert (POL) coming third all women. On the final day, Illy Wureit with Yuval Barnoon (ISR) pulled into second overall (first male team) after winning the sole race on the final day.

The championship’s fierce competition was a testament to the rising talent in Olympic 49er and 49erFX sailing. Sailors from 27 countries put forth their best efforts, and the level of racing reached new heights.

As the championship drew to a close, a sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship prevailed among the competitors. Travermunde week hosted the fleet aboard the historic Passat naval ship moored alongside the boat park. They also tasted German hospitality throughout the festival week as over one million vacationers walked along the seaway enjoying food, song, and a little sailing.

Travemünder Woche provided the perfect backdrop for this enthralling showcase of sailing excellence, with its picturesque waters and enthusiastic spectators adding to the excitement. This, the 13th episode of the Junior World championship marked a return to Travermunde, where the first ever JWC was held, before the FX had joined the Olympic programme.

As the championship concluded, all participants, regardless of their standings, could take pride in their achievements and the invaluable experience gained from the event. The lessons learned, friendships forged, and memories created will undoubtedly shape their sailing journeys for years to come.

The winners have proven themselves as the best among the rising stars of Olympic sailing, and their success serves as an inspiration to aspiring young sailors worldwide. Past winners of the Junior World Championship include many of the top names heading to Paris 2024, including James Peters (GBR), Diego Botin (ESP), Ben Bildstein (AUT), and Vilma Bobeck (SWE).

Where these talented athletes will head in the future, we do not know, but for now it was a great week of racing and another adventure for all.


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