The final day of the 45th Youth Sailing World Championships produced some tense finishes as medal places were mixed about on the waters of Langkawi, Malaysia.
Lighter winds awaited the record 425 sailors from 76 nations to end a regatta that has seen a constant 20 knots throughout. With the wind halved, tactics and surprises were in store and that proved to be the case with several shake ups having big bearings on who left with a medal.
The gold medal in the boy's Laser Radial and 420 were already decided, with some of the sailors in other fleets knowing they had a medal, just not what colour it would be. There were also some who had a medal in their grasp, but just couldn't quite hold on at the last.
There were twists and turns in the girl's 29er as the last race caused a shake-up at the top. However, it was Finland's Sirre Kronlof and Veera Hokka who were celebrating at the end.
The Finnish team used up their drop in the final race, finishing 15th but it was enough to take home gold. Back ashore it was down to Kronlof to put in to words what the win meant saying, “Awesome. I can't say anything. I don't know. The last race was so tight, so tight. There was so much pressure on but we managed it.
“It was light winds today and all week we have been in strong winds. We knew before we started that the Spanish are really good in light winds so we were worried.”
Going in to the final race, just three points separated the top three of Finland, Spain and Denmark with New Zealand waiting to pounce in fourth, eight points further back.
As the opportunity arose, Greta and Kate Stewart (NZL) duly pounced, taking fourth to leave them on 57 points. A nervous wait followed as they watched where their rivals were. A few skiffs crossed the line and the Kiwis chances were suddenly becoming a reality and as soon as the 13th, 14th and 15th placed boats finished the mathematical calculations commenced.
The Finnish team came through in 15th and discarded the score, leaving them on 53 points. Next home were Spain's Carla and Marta Munte Carrasco who had to carry their score due to a retirement earlier in the regatta. They held 58 points. Denmark's Laerke Graversen and Iben Nielsby Christensen came through in 15th, which they discarded, and they were forced to count their 12th from the third race to put them on 57 points. This left Kronlof and and Hokka celebrating gold, the Danes in silver and the Stewart sisters in bronze due to countback.
With the Spanish out of the medals, what did Kronlof think caused the drop? “I think the pressure got to them also. They knew they had to beat us by two or three places.”
Switching places after the final race of the boy's 29er were Slovenia's Peter Lin Janezic and Anze Podlogar and New Zealand's Jackson Keon and Nick Egnot Johnson.
The New Zealanders held an overnight lead of three points over Janezic and Podlogar so the Slovenians had to put some daylight between their rivals to get the gold. They managed it.
Explaining the last race, Janezic said, “Our first upwind was not as we planned and we were behind a lot. But then in the upwind we caught them. As we rounded the gate we were in front but we knew we had to be four places ahead and luckily we caught some shifts and we finished in front.”
The Slovenians finished in seventh leaving them on 46 points overall. The Kiwi team were five places behind in 12th as they concluded the regatta on 48 points. Janezic and Podlogar had done it. They had won the gold.
So how did it feel to win? “This is our first time that we have won a championship or any big event like this and its amazing. It definitely makes up for the fourth places.”
The fourth places he talks about are the finishes the pair got in both the World and European Championships but at the premier youth sailing regatta they broke their drought.
In in the battle for bronze it was Norway's Tomas and Mads Mathisen who picked up the medal despite a 20th place finish.
The girl's 420 went down to the wire as Poland's Julia Szmit and Hannah Dzik and Australia's Nia Jerwood and Lisa Smith fought it out for the gold medal.
Thanks to day five double bullets, the Polish team had a slender advantage, and it was those results that made the difference in the end. Poland had a 22nd place which they discarded and Australia had a 13th place which they also discarded. That meant Szmit and Dzik finished on 29 points, just one point ahead of Jerwood and Smith.
Even though the Polish girls knew what they had to do, it was only confusion that entered their mind when they took to the water as Szmit explains, “The last race was horrible. We were so stressed. We tried to go with the Australian team but then we started and thought 'why are they on the other side?' We totally forgot about them from the start.
“The whole race we were counting the teams before the Australians and there were 12, and we just thanked god no one had a false start.”
“We don't understand why we are first. It's unbelievable.”
Winning the bronze was Spain's Maria Caba and Carla Diaz who rounded their week off with a fifth place finish and 38 points. The final bullet of the girl's 420 went to France's Jessie Kampman and Anael Ponthieu.
USA's Will Logue and Bram Brakman started the day with a guaranteed gold medal, but it wasn't until late last night that it was confirmed for them.
The pair had to wait for a protest to be withdrawn before they could fully appreciate the win, as Logue explained, “We were so happy. We were celebrating so much and then we found out we had a protest and we were like 'Wait. What? How did this happen?' But it all got sorted and we are good friends with the team that protested and when it got sorted it was such a relief. It was good to have that weight off our shoulders today.”
Even though there was a gold medal wrapped up and an easy day could be had, Brakman still had eyes on another prize, “We wanted to enjoy the fun, the race and the pressure release, but we also had the Nations Cup in mind to get some points on the table for our team.”
Unfortunately they couldn't help the team as they only managed a discarded 16th.
The silver medal went to Brazil's Leonardo Lombardi and Rodrigo Luz as they had a third in the last race to finish on 37 points.
Ireland's Douglas Elmes and Colin O'Sullivan held off a late fight back from Australia's Alec Brodie and Xavier Winston Smith and Argentina's Felipe Martinez Autin Diniz and Ivan Aranguren to claim the bronze medal on 46 points. The Australian's scored a ninth and finished on 48 points and the Argentinian's took a bullet for 49 points. Elmes and O'Sullivan finished 11th in the final race but had some breathing space going into the day.
The top three in the girl's Laser Radial finished as it started on the final day as Hungary's Maria Erdi claimed a well-earned gold followed by Germany's Hannah Anderssohn and Poland's Magdalena Kwasna.
By finishing fourth ahead of her nearest rivals, Erdi was able to do what was required to stay in front and keep her first place in the regatta, but it wasn't as easy as it sounds as Erdi explained, “I'm very happy, but it was really tricky today. I was worried because I had a bad race yesterday, but I got a good start and I could control the fleet.
“I was third at the upward mark and then I could keep my place. I think I finished fourth but I don't even remember, I just knew I was in a good position.”
She was certainly in a good position as Germany's Anderssohn finished behind her in sixth place to seal silver.
Losing her second spot to Anderssohn the previous day, Poland's Kwasna fell further behind as she finished the regatta with a ninth place to leave her on 41 points. That ninth was enough to stop her sliding any further down as in second place on the day was Uruguay's Dolores Moreira Fraschini who finished just three points behind the German.
The last bullet of the regatta went to Spain's Silvia Morales Gonzalez.
In the boy's Laser Radial Australia's Alistair Young knew there was no one that could knock him from the top of tree as he had already wrapped up the title the day before.
So with the weight off his shoulders, Young had the day to enjoy the Langkawi waters. With the night to think about his win, Young still couldn't believe it saying, “Words can't describe it still, but it is sinking in. I was pretty relaxed and it was nice because I was so stressed in all the other races and I knew in this one I could just sail around.”
His 'sail around' meant a 15th place finish which he discarded to finish the regatta on 32 points.
Meanwhile a race for silver and bronze was on. Great Britain's Daniel Whiteley and New Zealand's George Gautrey trailed USA's Nicholas Baird and Finland's Oskari Muhonen In fourth and fifth respectively and knew they were in with a shot of the podium spots.
A fourth place moved Gautrey in to silver medal position as others around him were not quite grasping on to a medal tight enough. Gautrey benefitted from some high score finishes by his rivals to end the regatta on 52 points.
Great Britain's Daniel Whiteley was the big mover of the day as he also took advantage of some high finishes when his bullet jumped him in to bronze medal position at the expense of Baird and Muhonen. Whiteley finished on 58 points, two clear of Baird on 60 points.
Russia's Stefania Elfutina managed to defend her Youth Worlds crown as she held off Great Britain's Emma Wilson and China's Xian Ting Huang.
The three have been a step ahead of the field all week and their regular top place finishes meant that the medals would be shared out between them before the last day. The only thing that needed to be decided was the colours.
Elfutina held on to her title with a third place finish and it was only after the day that she could reflect on her time as a youth competitor, “I feel so happy and it's my second time and it's always unbelievable. It's great to finish my youth career in such a good place with such good people around, and to win it is even better.”
Behind Elfutina was Wilson who left it until the last and most important day to move up to second overall and claim silver. With a bullet in the final race and Huang finishing fourth, it meant the two were tied on 28 points. The final race win was decisive for Wilson as she grabbed the silver via count back.
While Elfutina was defending her title, the boy's RS:X winner, France's Titouan Le Bosq, was already thinking about how he would hold on to his next time in Oman.
An excited Le Bosq was clearly in love with his board saying, “It's my first world title and the conditions all week were great. I like the planing. I like this sport. I love windsurfing!”
With a fifth place in the final race, his 45 point total meant that he can return next year as champion of the class, and he already knows that's his plan, “I like this competition and I definitely want to come back and defend my title in Oman and come back even stronger.”
Argentina's Francisco Saubidet Birkner took the silver medal following a third leaving him to finish the week on 55 points.
Aruba's Mack van der Eerenbeemt was looking to take the experience he gained from the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games and apply it to the Youth Worlds, but mast issues slowed down his progress. Even so, he could not finish above Brazil's Brenno Francioli who will take a well-deserved bronze medal back home for his efforts. Francioli finished on 76 points, six clear of van der Eerenbeemt.
The French domination continued in the SL16 as Louis Flament and Charles Dorange again had a perfect day winning all three races in the gold fleet.
In Flament's words, “We won a lot of races and we controlled our opponents since the start of competition.”
The French precision ensured they managed everyone in the fleet with the only blot on their copy book a fifth place finish in their ninth race.
Describing what happened in that race, a laughing Flament said, “It's my fault. I fell in the water and Charles had to come back and pick me up.”
Even with his swim, the continuous bullets meant that they were too strong to catch, but with Flament aged out of the next Youth Worlds, would Dorange come back with a new partner? He put it simply, “I think not. We are going to stay as team and go forward.”
Trying to catch them all week were Australian's Shaun Connor and Sophie Renouf who before the regatta had never raced an SL16. The pair adapted well to take a silver medal, but their tally of 26 points was no match for the French teams 14 points.
Rounding out the medals with a bronze was New Zealand's Tamryn Lindsay and William Mckenzie who couldn't match their neighbours as they fell away with a string of fourth place finishes as the regatta drew towards its conclusion.
The Nations Trophy was won by Australia with boy's Laser Radial sailor Alistair Young leading the charge for the team from Down Under.
With a total of 303 points, the Australian team beat New Zealand in to second on 279 and France in third on 245.
This is Australia's fourth Nations Trophy and it ties them in second place historically with Great Britain. France are still out in front on 11 wins.
Last year's winners Spain dropped down to seventh.
The 45th Youth World Championships closes with the prize giving and closing ceremony to be held at the Dewan Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre.
By Richard Aspland / World Sailing
View video by Beau Outteridge:
Final Wrap: https://youtu.be/gezH6KqQisY
Laser Highlights – https://youtu.be/7BISCIOQLXo
29er Highlights – https://youtu.be/bRz4_8vl0EU
420 Highlights – https://youtu.be/tnECbCa332E
RS:X Highlights – https://youtu.be/SFLHiD84FaM
SL16 Highlights – https://youtu.be/O5fNGhzk1b0