Sanya, China delivered the tensest final day in the history of the Youth Sailing World Championships with eight gold medals decided on the final run to the finish line.
Italy’s Margherita Porro and Sofia Leoni had confirmed gold in the Girl’s 420 but minimal points separated the front runners in the remaining eight fleets ensuring it went down to the final race.
Sanya saved the best for the final day with gorgeous sunshine and a consistent 12 knot easterly breeze.
In a three-way fight for Boy’s 29er gold, France’s Théo Revil and Gautier Guevel overcame the challenge to claim a hard-fought title.
The momentum in the Boy’s 29er swung to and fro all week long and heading into the final day either the French, Mathias Berthet and Alexander Franks-Penty (NOR) and Rok Verderber and Klemen Semelbauer (SLO) could claim gold.
Revil and Guevel kept the two teams at bay and sailed through in seventh. The Norwegians came through in 14th and the Slovenians in 16th.
“We are really really happy, this is a big honour. We don’t really realise what we’ve done,” expressed Guevel. “It was like a lot of emotion at the finish line and all the pressure of the week just left us. We were so excited.
“We saw our coach straight away but we’ll phone our parents next.”
The Norwegians picked up gold but it was heartbreak for the Slovenians after Argentina’s Santiago Duncan and Elias Dalli won the race to move into bronze, five points ahead.
Porro and Leoni had gold all wrapped up ahead in the Girl’s 29er but a fight was on for silver and bronze. Russia’s Zoya Novikova and Diana Sabirova took a second in the last race and moved up to silver. Jasmin May Galbraith and Chloe Fisher (AUS) completed the podium but were just one point ahead of the French team.
Australia’s Otto Henry and Rome Featherstone overcame Thomas Rice and Trevor Bornarth (USA) to win gold in the Boy’s 420.
Henry and Featherstone trailed the Americans by a single point ahead of the final race and had a game plan, “We knew we had to beat the Americans and come ninth or better. We knew we had to get a good result,” explained Henry. But it didn’t quite go by the play back as he continued, “We stuffed up the start. We were jammed inbetween the start boat and the French and then we couldn’t go anywhere so we hit them. We had to do two penalty spins.
“But we stuck to our plan and came back from there. It worked well in the end.”
The Australians came through in third with the Americans behind in 11th which gave them silver.
“We’re pretty stoked, that’s for sure,” expressed Featherstone. “The feelings haven’t really kicked in. We were talking on the water, thinking we’re number one and were imagining looking out at everyone on the podium and their faces. That’s when the butterflies started to come in.
“The Youth Worlds is the biggest stepping place.”
Ido Bilik and Noam Homri (ISR) completed the podium.
American twin sisters Carmen and Emma Cowles claimed a stylish gold medal in the Girl’s 420 with a race win. They finished 26-points ahead of Violette Dorange and Camille Orion (FRA) and Arianna Passamonti and Giulia Fava (ITA) who completed the podium.
“Right now we’re trying to digest it,” said the sisters in unison. “It’s still sinking in. We’re going to tell our mother and sister, they’ve been following it from afar, even though it’s midnightthere. They’re probably really excited right now.”
Israel’s Yoav Cohen claimed gold in the Boy’s RS:X by a single point over China’s Hao Chen. The pair had battled all week long and fought to the bitter end. Chen finished third in the final race with Cohen following in fifth which gave him gold.
Cohen was quick to acknowledge his Chinese rival and was over the moon about his victory. “It’s a dream come true. I can’t get over this feeling,” said Cohen through a beaming smile. “I’ve won before but here I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked before. The level keeps getting better and better. I can’t talk, I have no words. It’s amazing.
“This week has been epic, just epic. I’ve had nights without sleeping. The Chinese guy and I were always split by one point the whole championship. It’s made this win so sweet because it was so hard. It did not come easily and I’m stoked.”
Sil Hoekstra (NED) completed the Boy’s RS:X podium.
Emma Wilson (GBR) and Italy’s Giorgio Speciale battled all week in the Girl’s RS:X and at the end of the week, there was zero separation as they ended up tied on 24-points each with the same scorelines.
Both can be described as champions but Wilson’s victory in the final race means that she walks away with gold, to defend the title she won in 2016.
“I’m so happy and relieved, said Wilson. “It was so close for the whole week – I was second for the whole week and then finally on that last reach I pulled up. It was amazing.”
China’s Ting Yu picked up bronze.
Israel’s Maor Ben Hrosh overcame a nine point gap in the Boy’s Laser Radial to snatch a second Israeli gold. He trailed Daniil Krutskikh (RUS) overnight but the Russians 19th handed the Israeli the initiative as he sailed through in fourth to win by three points.
“When I came in this morning, I felt like I needed to save my second place,” explained Hrosh, “but at the start I wanted to take gold and I gave it everything. I cannot believe this has happened and I’ve won.”
The Russian picked up silver and Guido Gallinaro (ITA) completed the podium.
It was a tense finale in the Girl’s Laser Radial as Charlotte Rose (USA) and Dolores Moreira Fraschini (URU) went toe to toe. A mid-fleet battle ensued but Rose did just enough, finishing 17th to win via countback as she was tied with the Uruguayan.
Daisy Collingridge (GBR) overcame Luciana Cardozo (ARG) to pick up bronze.
It was a tense finale in the Nacra 15 as Switzerland’s Max Wallenberg and Amanda Bjork-Anastassov overhauled Australia’s Shannon and Jayden Dalton.
Their fifth in the final race compared to the Australians eighth meant they were both tied on 57-points but the Swiss won via countback thanks to a win in the fifth race of the series.
It could have been completely different for the Swiss team after issues during the race as Wallenberg explained, “Our jib fell on the upwind but Amanda went to the front and fixed it and everything was fine in the end but when that happened it became very intense and stressful. We thought our championship would end there and we’d be dead last and in fourth. But we kept on and well, we won,” he smiled.
“It’s a big thing to win this. It’s an amazing feeling and hard to describe because to win this championship you need to work hard to even get here and have a lot of talent. I think, without our coach, our families and our yacht club we wouldn’t have made it here.”
Italy’s consistent performance across the week means they win their fourth Nations’ Trophy.
All of the sailors will be celebrated at the closing ceremony this evening with the winners receiving World Sailing medals and perpetual trophies.
By Daniel Smith – World Sailing