Lack of wind cancels racing at Volvo Youth Worlds

For the second time at the 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship competitors were left frustrated as all racing was cancelled with the breeze failing to materialize in Buzios today.

After 30 knot gusts forced the Race Committee to call off all of Sunday's scheduled races, today it was a total absence of the wind which was the problem. After beautiful weather during the lay day, today started grey, wet and still and whilst the rain soon stopped, the skies never cleared and the breeze never got going. Around midday the forecasters were predicting some improvement in the conditions so all seven fleets were sent out, but the wind never got much above 3 knots and the Race Committee called it a day around 16:00. Everyone in Buzios will be keeping their fingers tightly crossed that tomorrow's forecast of brighter skies and northerly winds of 12-14 knots materializes.

Brazilian windsurfer Jorge Renato do Amaral Silva is a Buzios local and has been sailing here for years. Still, he's been as surprised as anyone as to the weather conditions this week, “It's not normal. Really windy, then light winds, then no wind today. Normally when it's really windy on one day, then the wind drops a bit, but not really windy, no wind.”

Asked about dealing with a frustrating day like today he says you can't let the conditions become a distraction. “You've just got to take the rest and try and concentrate,” he says. “It's important to keep your mind focussed on the other races. You can't let days like today upset you and mess up your approach to the other races.”

One Change Amongst The Leaders

Even without any racing there has been one change at the top of the leaderboard after the British team of Philip Sparks and Ben Gratton were disqualified from race four of the Boy's 420 event. The Chilean team protested the Brits for not giving room at the mark and the Jury ruled the favour of the former, resulting in a DSQ score of 32 points for Sparks and Gratton, who consequently drop from first to seventh. This promotes the French team of Bernard Gabriel Skoczek and Thibaut Soler into first place overall, Italy's Davide Vignone and Matteo Ramian into second and the Chileans Benjamín Grez and Carlos Vergara up into third.

In spite of the lack of racing, it's still set to be a memorable day for near 300 competitors gathered here from 59 nations. At tonight's post-‘race' debriefing, ISAF Coach Santi Lange (ARG) will be joined by none other than Torben Grael (BRA), five-time Olympic medallist and winning skipper of the recent edition of the Volvo Ocean Race (amongst countless other sailing achievements). The two South American sailing greats will be reviewing some of their highlights from the recent Volvo Ocean Race plus answering questions on their experiences across the VOR, Olympic Games, America's Cups and more. The debrief will be preceded by a short presentation on the 2010 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship which will take place Istanbul, Turkey.

Looking Ahead

With just two days of competition remaining, the overall standings are still very evenly balanced, especially with the discard due to kick in after the completion of race five of the series. Amongst the many sailors looking forward to excluding a bad score is Mayumi Roller of the US Virgin Islands, who started her series with two 25s on the opening day but bounced back strongly with a race win and a seventh on Monday.

She was particularly frustrated with today's cancellations. “I really wanted to race because I really like light winds,” she explained. Roller is one of 23 competitors here in Buzios thanks to funding from ISAF's Athlete Participation Programme (APP), following in the footsteps of her brother who took part at the 2007 Youth Worlds in Canada. The APP provides sailors with funding support to help them with travel and entry costs to attend the championship, as well as providing coaching at the event with the ISAF Coach, who this year is Santi Lange. “It's a really good programme,” she says. “I was also on it last year in Denmark. Santi is a really great guy, He's really knowledgeable about everything and he's really easy to talk to. It's been a great experience. And the good thing with the different conditions is I've really learnt a lot so far.”

Roller says the competition to date has really given her a lot of confidence. “Now that I know I'm really capable of finishing in the top 10 I really hope I can finish in the top 10 and hopefully the top five. I don't know if it's possible to medal, but that would be amazing. Before I came here I knew this was my last time [at the Youth Words] and I really had to give it my all and sail my best.”

Thailand's Top

One of the surprise performers of the championship so far has been Thailand's Keerati Bualong, who lies in second place overall in the highly-competitive 53-boat Boy's Laser Radial fleet. Bualong, still only 17 and aptly nicknamed ‘Top', is competing at the Youth Worlds for the first time, although he's an experienced campaigner in the Asian sailing scene having won numerous medals at Optimist, Byte and Laser 4.7 events. In 2007 he won the Byte World Championship title and came in sixth at last year's Laser 4.7 Worlds in Croatia. “I'm just trying to sail well and do the best I can. If I do the best I can do then maybe I can win a medal,” he says.

This is the fourth edition of the Youth Worlds at which Thailand has competed (the first was in 1997) and the nation has yet to win a medal. However, Thai Team Leader Veerasit Puangnak and coach Gareth Owen are not at all surprised by the success of their star pupil. “We've got an ambitious programme to develop sailing in Thailand,” says Owen. “We've got a very good group of youngsters who are developing and now we're trying to expose them to world-class competition. We've brought Top here as our top sailor to this regatta and he's our benchmark to see how we're doing in our whole programme.”

Top and the rest of the young sailing stars here in Buzios now have two days of competition remaining. A total of four scheduled races remain over the course of which the 2009 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champions will be decided.

Tomorrow, three races are scheduled for all events, with the first started moved forward to 11:30 local time (14:30). One race is scheduled for the final race of the championship on Friday.

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