The seven Youth Worlds titles went to seven nations as Australia, France, Great Britain and Singapore join Brazil, Hong Kong and New Zealand as gold medal winners on the final day of the 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in Buzios, Brazil.
Australian cousins Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, French windsurfer Joseph Gueguen, British 420 Boys Phil Sparks and Ben Gratton and Singapore Laser Radial star Elizabeth Yin are 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing World Champions after a fantastic final day of racing in Brazil. Brazilian Girl's 420 crew Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, windsurfer Hei Man Chan of Hong Kong and New Zealand's Sam Meech in the Boy's Laser Radial, will also step onto the top of the podium at this evening's Closing Ceremony having already secured their gold me dals yesterday.
The Multihull – Hobie 16 provided the final race of the championship, which also proved to be the closest and one of the most exciting. Australian cousins Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin just held off the challenge from defending champs Romain and Valentin Bellet (FRA) to win gold by a single point.
“At the moment I'm more relieved than happy, but I'm still pretty happy!” Waterhouse said after a stressful day on the water. “We just got out there and tried keep to consistent. It was good breeze and we got off the line well, got up there and just tried to stay there.”
After a shaky start to the regatta 2008 champions, the French Bellet brothers, stormed back in the stronger winds which have typified second half of the series. However, they left their charge just a little too late and although they won today's race it, the Aussies came in third to claim gold. Silver went to France, with Italians Francesco Porro and Luca Marsaglia completing the podium.
One final race was held for each event on another bright and breezy day in Buzios and whilst seven different nations ended up winning medals, France was undoubtedly the star performer. The French ran out clear winners of the Volvo Trophy, the prize awarded for the top-performing nation, and picked up two silvers and two bronze to add to Gueguen's gold. Last year's Volvo Trophy winners Great Britain came in second this time around, ahead of Italy, with Brazil scoring a best-ever result of fourth and New Zealand fifth.
French Team Leader Gildas Philippe is himself a former Youth World Champion, winning gold in the 420 back in 1991, a year in which Robert Scheidt (BRA), Dean Barker (NZL), Carolijn Brouwer (NED) and Gustavo Doreste (ESP) all also won Youth World medals. He's in doubt as to the potential of the young sailors here in Buzios, “All champions pass through this regatta before coming a real great champions,” he says, adding that this key element of the championship has never changed, “There are more nations now, so the level maybe a bit higher but for the best sailors, they're almost the same.”
The French windsurfing team led the charge, winning medals in both RS:X fleets today; gold in the Boys and bronze in the Girls. Joseph Gueguen did not have the best of starts in the decisive final boy's race, but all week long he's been quickest in the windier, planing conditions and came back strongly to win today's race ahead of Oliver-Tom Schliemann (GER), clinching the title by three points. “It's been the perfect regatta,” said Gueguen. “I've worked a lot this year so this is my reward.”
“This morning I was a little bit stressed, but spoke with my coach, Faustine MERRET [Athens Olympic windsurfing gold medallist] and knew I just had to focus on my race, because it was too close for tactics. I just tried to keep it simple, just do what I know I could do.”
Last year's champion Michalis Malekkides of Cyprus secured silver this time around by finishing third in today's race, whilst Brazil won their second medal of the championship with Buzios local Jorge Amaral just hanging on to bronze thanks to a fourth place finish today.
In Girl's fleet, Hei Man Chan of Hong Kong already had the gold medal secured, but rounded off a stunning performance this week with her fourth win of the series today. In the British-French battle for the remaining podium spots, Izzy Hamilton (GBR) triumphed, finishing just ahead of Leonore Bosch (FRA) in today's race to secure silver, with Bosch taking bronze.
The gold medal had also already been secured in the Boy's Laser Radial fleet, with Sam Meech (NZL) the runaway winner this week. Argentina's Tomás Pellejero triumphed in the battle for second overall, winning today's race to take silver in style. Denmark's Pascal Timshel took the bronze.
Singapore's Elizabeth Yin won Asia's second gold medal of this championship with a typically assured performance in today's final race of the Girl's Laser Radial event. Yin began the day with a six-point lead over Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN). Heidi Tenkanen (FIN) and Mathilde De Kerangat (FRA) again showed their speed in the breeze to place first and second in today's race but behind them the focus was on Yin and Rindom, with the Danish skipper needed at five boats between her and the Singaporean to take gold. Yin though was not to be denied, coming in seventh, just two places behind Rindom to secure the title. Denmark wins silver, with De Kerangat's second place today elevating her up into the bronze medal position.
On the 420 course, today's breezy conditions were again just about perfect for the British Boy's pairing of Phil Sparks and Ben Gratton, who clinched the title with another dominant race win in today's decider. After being disqualified from race four of the series they've been virtually faultless for the second half of the championship.
“We knew we were quick in this wind so we were quite conservative on the start and just went for the space,” Sparks explains, “We speeded off the line and just went full speed upwind and got to the windward mark in first with a bit of a gap.” From there only the Kiwis ever came close to threatening, but by the final run the Brits had victory secure and cruised across the line to take gold. In the battle for silver Chile's Benjamín Grez and Carlos Vergara were looking good until a problem with their spinnaker hoist on the final reach cost them several places and this was enough for Gabriel Skoczek and Thibaut Soler (FRA) to clinch second overall. Still Grez and Vergara were delighted to claim bro nze, the first-time Chile has won a medal at the Youth Worlds.
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) already had gold wrapped up in the Girl's 420 fleet but that didn't stop them powering to victory in their favoured windy conditions today. Italians Camilla Marino and Claudia Soricelli have also excelled in the breeze this week and followed the Brazilians in to take second place today and the silver medal. Singapore won their second medal of the championship as Griselda Khng and Cecilia Low showed they are not just light wind specialists with a fourth place today giving them the bronze.
Tonight the Closing Ceremony will be held in Buzios, marking the final act in a fantastic 39th edition of the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship. As well the near-300 young sailors representing 59 nations who have competed in Brazil this year, South American sailing superstars Santi Lange (ARG) and Torben Grael (BRA) will also be in attendance to celebrate the success of this year's event.