Kingston, Ontario, Canada
It is the eve of the 2019 Laser 4.7 Youth World Championships. 180 sailors from 35 countries around the world have survived the gauntlet of equipment inspection, some encountering a bit more difficulty than they had anticipated. Yes, they paid someone to put the sail numbers on. No, they didn’t check to see if they were done correctly. And now the sail has to be renumbered.
Yes, the rigging is fine. No, those battens are not class legal (and there goes another CAD $50). You need to remove the excess padding on the centerboard trunk. Although it might feel to some sailors like equipment inspection is the hardest, or most nerve-wracking part of the Championship, that is now behind them and the competition is set to begin tomorrow to determine who the new 4.7 Youth World Champions will be.
Of all Laser Championships, the 4.7 Youth Worlds is perhaps the most difficult to forecast success. Sailors are developing skills rapidly, and a sailor who was in the middle of Silver fleet last year could be looking to claim a spot on the podium this year. Some of the more physically mature competitors could have a significant advantage if there are strong winds. But if the conditions are generally light, that same size can prove to something of a liability that will need to be overcome. Perhaps we will see a mix of conditions, with a little something for everyone. There are sailors here who have had success in several major championships around the world and have a container of gear and a full support team behind them, but there are other sailors who have arrived as the only sailor representing their country and only what they could bring in their luggage. They all begin the Championship with the same opportunity.
Who has good downwind boat handling? Who will figure out the current best? Who can pick up the wind shifts most consistently? Who will remain focused even when things aren’t going their way? In that fourth race, after struggling on the first upwind leg, catching seven boats downwind and having a good mark rounding can have a significant impact on your final results.
Are there any favorites? As with most sport, there are some participants who have shown success before, and there is good reason to believe they can do so again.
Carling Davies (Canada), who won the 4.7 North American Championships last month, will be trying to earn a World Championship in the girls division. Christopher Kitson (Canada), who finished second in the same regatta, will be competing in the boys division.
The 2019 European 4.7 Boys Champion, Israel’s Yogev Alcalay, is likely feeling pretty confident. But there are several other sailors here in Kingston who finished in the top 10 in the European Championships, including Jonathan Lio (Singapore), Niccolo Nordera (Italy), and Roko Stipanovic (Croatia). Jonathan Lio is also the 2019 Asian Region Champion in 4.7 and finished 12th in the 2018 Worlds, so his success in Europe was clearly not a one time event. Batu Özonur from Turkey finished 7th in the 2018 World Championships and he will be looking to improve on that finish.
In the Girls Division, Sara Savelli (Italy), Lara Himmes (Spain) and Marilena Makri (Cyprus) were top 10 finishers in the European Championships and they will be looking to build on that success here at the World Championships. Ursula Balas from Croatia was a top 10 finisher in the 2018 4.7 Youth World Championships so she has shown she can sail at the front of the fleet, too.
That is only a handful of names in a field of 180 sailors and it is impossible to know how this event will unfold over the next six days of racing. Some competitors will pop up in the standings only to fall back down a few days later. Others may start off modestly and continue improving from day to day to put themselves in contention for a podium finish. In the end, it will be up to each of the sailors to make their case on the water. And everyone here is set to take part in this process to discover just who will become the new World Champions.