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Russian champion returns to defend Youth Worlds title

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Stefania Elfutina

Stefania Elfutina

Russia’s Stefania Elfutina will be returning to the Youth Sailing World Championship in Langkawi, Malaysia to defend her RS:X Girls title from 27 December through to 3 January.

The Russian makes up part of the 23-boat RS:X Girls fleet and she will be a strong favourite to retain the title she won at the Tavira 2014 Youth Worlds. The RS:X Boys fleet will feature a fleet of 30 sailors and with no returning medallists, new names will be carved on the trophy.

2015 will be a record year for the Youth Worlds as more than 430 sailors from 80 nations are making the trip to the beautiful Malaysian island of Langkawi to race across nine fleets. New and returning nations make up the numbers to easily surpass the previous best of 67 set in Tavira, Portugal last year.

The 23-boat RS:X Girls fleet sees 2014 Champion Elfutina of Russia make a reappearance at the Youth Worlds. Elfutina was reduced to tears of joy when she found out she won in Tavira last year and thanks to that victory she has enjoyed a string of success stories since.

RSX Fleet from  the 2014 Youth Worlds

RSX Fleet from the 2014 Youth Worlds

“The medal from the Youth Worlds last year gave me a lot of confidence because I understood that anything is possible, ” explained Elfutina. “In the last race I thought I was second and I was like, ‘oh you’re second, do not lose your second place’ and then I won it and it was unbelievable.

“Now I believe I can do anything.”

And the motto,  “I can do anything, ” has certainly stuck firm with Elfutina as she took her form in the youth ranks straight into the senior division just months later.

At the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships Elfutina qualified her country for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition and she backed that up with gold at the 2014 Sailing World Cup Melbourne, all before her 18th birthday.

She turned 18 at the turn of the year and since then further top finishes have followed including a 10th at the 2015 World Championships and a fifth at the Olympic Test Event.

In the 23 strong RS:X Girls fleet it’s hard to bet against Elfutina but she knows that every sailor will be looking to perform to the best of their ability across the week,  “At the Langkawi Youth Worlds I will try to race as well as I can and maybe I can take gold again. Everybody is going to be racing to their best so it is going to be very hard.

“I’ve been training in a lot of countries and doing a lot of events. It’s been a good year for me but whilst I am looking forward to the Rio Olympics, I am concentrating on Malaysia. My coach and team mates have been helping me so a big thanks to them, we are working really hard.”

If Elfutina is to retain her title she will have to go through a string of strong competitors. Great Britain’s Emma Wilson is making the trip to Langkawi and will be amongst the leading pack having won gold at the 2014 RS:X Youth World Championship in Clearwater, USA.

2015 RS:X Youth Worlds bronze medallist Berenice Mege of France will be in the mix for the medals as will 2015 RS:X South American Champion Maria Belen Bazo (PER), Hong Kong’s Kwan Ching Ma and Isis Hoekstra (NED).

In the RS:X Boys, Argentina’s Francisco Saubidet Birkner will be hotly fancied to add the Youth Worlds title to an impressive list of accolades.

Saubidet Birkner took a dramatic gold medal on the final day of the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in the Techno 293 and having made the step up to the RS:X shortly after he has made significant gains. He won his first graded event, the 50-point San Isidro Labrador in his home country and then finished ninth at the Youth European Championship in Mondello, Italy.

One month later he finished second at the RS:X Youth World Championship in Gdynia, Poland ahead of Langkawi rival Titouan Le Bosq (FRA). With strong preparation behind him, Saubidet Birkner will come in with confidence sky high.

The Argentinian edged out Russia’s Maxim Tokarev at the Youth Olympic Games via countback and much like Saubidet Birkner, the Russian has stepped up into the RS:X. The pair will renew their rivalry in Langkawi and Tokarev will want to get one up on the Argentinean following his Nanjing disappointment.

RS:X Youth European Champion Sil Hoekstra of the Netherlands will be amongst the frontrunners and you can never count out the Italian and Polish RS:X sailors who consistently produce top sailing talent. Matteo Evangelisti of Italy and Mateusz Grochowski of Poland will be looking to continue their nations strong run of form in the RS:X fleets at the Youth Worlds.

Sailors will start to arrive at the Langkawi venue on 27 December where they will receive the supplied equipment from Ovington, UpMarine, Nautivela, Sirena Voile, Neil Pryde and Laser Performance/Maclaren.

From there, the ceremony on 28 December will signal the start of the Youth Worlds before racing commences on 29 December. Racing will run through to Sunday 3 January withFriday 1 January a lay day for the sailors.

About the Youth Worlds
The Youth Worlds was first held in Sweden in 1971. The 2015 Youth Sailing World Championships in Langkawi, Malaysia will be the 45th edition of the championship.

Past notable winners include American’s Cup skippers, Chris Dickson (NZL), Russell Coutts (NZL), Dean Barker (NZL); Olympic medallists, Nathan Outteridge (AUS), Iain Jensen (AUS), Robert Scheidt (BRA), Amelie Lux (GER), Ben Ainslie (GBR), Iain Percy (GBR), Alessandra Sensini (ITA), Elise Rechichi (AUS) and Tessa Parkinson (AUS); Volvo Ocean Race sailors like Stuart Bannatyne (NZL) and Richard Clarke (CAN). The most successful ISAF Youth World Champions are Great Britain’s Sally Cuthbert and Poland’s Zofia Klepacka having won four successive titles in the Laser II and Mistral respectively.

Spain is the current holder of the Nations Trophy, awarded annually to the top performing nation at the Youth Worlds. France is the most successful nation through the history of the Championship, winning the Nations Trophy on a record 12 occasions and holding a record 74 medals: 26 gold, 30 silver and 18 bronze.

About World Sailing
World Sailing is the world governing body for the sport of sailing.

World Sailing is made up of 139 Member National Authorities (MNAs), who are its principal members, and responsible for the decision making process that governs the sailing world.

There are currently more than 100 World Sailing classes, ranging from the small dinghy classes for young people up to 60 foot ocean racers.

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