The 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds kicked off today in Clearwater, USA, and it was hard work from the start: in 5-6 kt of breeze, offshore to start the day and side-on to close it, pumping was in order for the 54 boys and 28 girls gathered here for the 2014 RS:X Youth World Windsurfing Championships.
Races started on the dot at 11am in offshore conditions, with the knowledgeable race committee opting for a trapezoid course to keep the two fleets well clear of one another. After a long break ashore to recover from the morning workout, and to give the afternoon side-on breeze a chance to settle, the fleets were called back for two more races. Racing in those pumping conditions is very technical. It’s also a real test of a sailor’s stamina and psychological endurance, and the hot Florida weather can be the straw that literally breaks the Camelbak!
“It was very hard out there for me today,” said Brenno Francioli from Brasil. “I’m better in high winds, but it was a good day. We should have higher winds later this week. I can’t wait!” Brenno currently sits in 29th place.
The boys are racing as one fleet, and errors on the start line are costly. With 6 boys OCS (early over the start line) in the 1st race, 8 in the 2nd race and 6 again in the 3rd, and a few boys scored OCS more than once already, there’ll be plenty of catching up to do the rest of the week. One of those affected is Mattia Camboni, the 2013 Youth World Champion, who scored 1, OCS, OCS for the three races of the day and will have no option but to race aggressively the rest of the way if the provisional results hold. Toni Bonet from Spain was incredibly regular and leads the Men’s fleet by 10 points over Frenchmen Clement Bourgeois and Oel Pouliquen, but the discard is likely to make the contest much closer once it gets into play. On the women’s side, Ma Kwan Ching from Hong Kong came out swinging in the afternoon with two bullets. Behind Ma Kwan Ching, Sara Wennekes (NED), Noy Drihan (ISR) and Emma Wilson (GBR) are lurking, but here too the discard will bring many more racers closer to the front.
The competitors this week have a venue unlike any other: the Baystar Race Village is set up directly on the sugar-white sand of Clearwater Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in America. A big tent provides well-needed shelter from the sun, overnight storage for the equipment, and a corridor has been set up from the tent to the limits of the 300 ft zone to allow everyone to launch and land without obstacles. Wind conditions today didn’t allow for racing very close to shore, but that didn’t stop regular beach-goers from lining up the boundaries of that corridor to watch the competitors up close. They took pictures, asked questions, waved flags and cheered for their favorite countries.
Planting an enormous Race Village smack in the middle of a touristic beach is a logistical challenge for sure, but it creates real excitement for everyone: for the racers who get to spend a day at the beach, for the spectators who get introduced or re-introduced to the sport, and for the local community that gets to promote its incredible natural assets and the can-do attitude of its leaders.
“It’s a throwback to the early days of windsurfing,” said Jerome Samson, President of US Windsurfing. “Most sailing events are run out of yacht clubs, and for very good reasons, but it’s often at the expense of visibility. One thing we can say with certainty is that our venue this week is very visible!”
Racing continues Tuesday Oct 21 through Saturday Oct 25.
This event would not be possible without the energy and passion of Frank Chivas and Tampa Bay Charities, the city of Clearwater, the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, the Clearwater Yacht Club and many more generous sponsors.