The very first Youth World Championship took place in Angelholm, Sweden in 1971. Sixteen nations took part with Mats Berglund and Per Larsson winning gold in the 420 for the hosts, whilst Denmark's Fritz Hovman and Ole Sorensen claimed the second Championship title in the Flipper. A year later and already the concept of the Youth Worlds was fast catching on with 27 nations entering the second event in Travemunder, Germany.
Spreading Its Wings
In 1976 the Youth Worlds left Europe for the first time to head to Toronto, Canada, and then two years later headed to Australia and Perth in 1978, where a Kiwi called Chris Dickson announced his arrival on the sailing scene with the first of three Youth Worlds gold medals. In 1984, the Championship was back in North America, when in San Diego, USA a third event was added in the shape of the Mistral windsurfer. In 1987 a second windsurfer and the first girl's event was added, with Australia's Jessica Crisp taking the gold medal on her home waters at Botany Bay.
Come the 1990's and the event continued to grow with a fifth event added in the shape of the Laser Radial Girls, with 30 nations entering for the first time in Muiden, Netherlands. Shortly after in Villamoura, Portugal in 1992 a second two person dinghy event was added for the girls, then in Newport, USA in 1996 the Youth Worlds broke 40 nations for the first time. A year later and Fukuoka, Japan hosted the first ever Youth Worlds in Asia, and Africa followed in 1998, when the seventh event, in the shape of the open multihull, was added for the first time in Cape Town, South Africa. By 2004, and the Championship in Gdynia, Poland broke through the half century with 52 nations entered, and in 2015 the record was set at 76 nations in Langkawi, Malaysia.
Star Studded Past
As the Youth Worlds has grown and travelled through the past 44 years, one constant has remained - the Championship's uncanny ability to give the sailing world a glimpse at its future stars. In just the third ever Youth Worlds in Setubal, Portugal in 1973, Jose Luis Doreste Blanco (ESP) picked up a bronze medal in the Laser before going on to represent Spain in multiple Olympic Games, culminating in his triumph in the Finn in Busan 15 years later. Doreste's brother, Luis went one better, winning both Youth Worlds gold and Olympic gold, with victory in the Europe in 1979, before Olympic gold medals followed in the 470 in 1984 and the Flying Dutchman in 1992. Russell Coutts (NZL) also completed 'the double' with wins in 1981 and 1984, before going on to win the America's Cup as skipper on three occasions.
Moving into the 1990s and if anything the trend intensifies. Coutts' successor at Team New Zealand after the Kiwis romped home to victory in Louis Vuttion Act 13, Dean Barker (NZL) is another match racing star who picked up gold at the Youth Worlds. Victory in 1990 was followed by silver in 1991, where none other than Robert Scheidt (BRA) got the better of Barker in the Laser before going on to win two Olympic gold medals and eight World Championship titles in the class. Siren Sundby (NOR) won the Europe World Championships in 2003 and 2004 before picking up an Olympic gold in 2004. Ben Ainslie (GBR) is without doubt one of the greatest ever Olympians with four golds and a silver and he too has Youth Worlds medals in his trophy cabinet, winning the gold medal in the Laser in 1995 and a silver in 1994. Other Olympic gold medallists who stood on the podium at the Youth Worlds include the most successful female Olympic sailor with four medals in windsurfing, Alessandra Sensini (ITA), as well as Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL), Gal Fridman (ISR), Iain Percy (GBR) and Sarah Ayton (GBR).
Already the winners in recent years have produced the goods on the senior circuit. Elise Rechichi (AUS) had already won a silver and a gold medal at the Youth Worlds before she teamed up with Tessa Parkinson to win her second gold in 2004. Stayng together, they went on to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Nathan Outteridge began his Youth Worlds winning ways the same year as Rechichi and collected gold in 2002, 2003 and 2004. In 2008, Nathan sailed to success at the 49er World Championships with Ben Austin, himself a Youth Worlds gold medallist from 2000 before teaming up with his crew from 2004 to win the 2009 49er World title and the silver in 2010.
It is perhaps less surprising that so many future stars find their way to the top of the sport through the Youth Worlds when examining the concept of the Championship. Essentially the criteria for entering is simple being good enough to represent your nation. Entry is open to everyone and over the 44 years of the Youth Worlds, over 100 different nations have sent sailors to compete. A low entry fee and supplied events make the Youth Worlds accessible to all and means the top young sailors from right around the world can attend.
Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden are the only four nations to have competed at every single Youth Worlds since 1971, whilst Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and the USA have competed in all but one of the Championships, and New Zealand and Australia in all but two. Almost every year the Youth Worlds has managed to attract new nations to the line up, especially since the introduction of the Athlete Participation Programme at the turn of the century.
The French are the most successful nation in the history of the Youth World Championships having won a record 76 medals: 28 gold, 30 silver and 18 bronze. They dominate the Nations Trophy standings, the award introduced in 1991 for the best performing nation at the Championship. Having won the inaugural trophy, they defended it successfully in 1992 and have since won it on ten other occasions. Only Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, Spain and Italy have also managed to lift the trophy.
Spain added their name to the list of countries who have lifted the Nations Trophy with a controlled team display at the 2014 Youth Worlds in Tavira, Portugal. Amassing 281 points from a possible 360, contributions came across the team with every sailor contributing points. Joel Rodriguez and Martina Reino took the titles in the Laser Radial Boys and Girls whilst Silvia Mas and Marta Davila came out on top in the 420 Girls. Brothers Jordi and Ruben Booth picked up silver in the SL16.
Australia Move Up
Australia took the Nations Trophy in the record breaking 2015 Youth Sailing World Championships in Langkawi, Malaysia. From the new record of 76 nations that attended, and spearheaded by Laser Radial sailor Alistair Young, Australia moved on to four Nations Trophy wins to tie with Great Britain in second behind the dominant French. 420 Girls Nia Jerwood and Lisa Smith and SL16 sailors Shaun Connor and Sophie Renouf both took silver in their respective classes and were backed up by high finishes in the other classes to give their country 303 points.