By Traks Gordon
Just as the whales retreat to warmer waters during July, so too does the cream of Australia’s youth sailing talent. Queensland Youth Week has become an iconic part of the Australian Youth Grand Prix circuit. Ideal in location, facilities, temperature and hospitality, the RQYS on the shores of Waterloo Bay once again did not disappoint in 2013 attracting over 280 competitors from all over Australia and New Zealand.
The regatta is ideal for young sailors in final preparations for northern hemisphere international representative events as well as those making the transitions to new classes for the 2013/14 season. This year the standard of racing was first class as people prepared for Optimist World Championships, Optimist Asian Championships, 29er World Championships, 420 World Championships and ISAF Youth World Championships. Many sailors left the presentation and went straight to Brisbane International Airport for departure.
This year RPAYC sailors participated in the Optimist Green fleet, Optimist Open, Laser Radial, 29er and 420 classes. Once again RPAYC was amongst the largest clubs in terms of participation, diversity of classes and top results. Overall 15 sailors made the trip supported by parents and Coach Traks Gordon who has worked closely with many of the sailors for the past 3 years.
Of special mention was our group of seven first time interstate campaigners within our Optimist fleet. Graduates of Tackers learn to sail in 2011, participants in a yearlong pilot training scheme via our new Optimist Green and Silver Fleet pathway in 2012 to becoming interstate standard Open fleet regatta competitors in 2013. This year RPA had one of, if not the biggest, number of first time interstate event attendances and the performance of these sailors was comparable to others who have been competing for years. It was a real treat to guide the kids through the nerves and processes of competing in a 70 boat international standard fleet.
It is interesting to note that in July 2012 there were only 12 Optimists participating in RPAYC Green and Silver training, in July 2013 our fleet is approaching 50. It would be fair to say that we are entering a golden era of participation and performance in coming years. We had the largest group of girls from one club and the youngest Optimist participant in the open event. All of our new sailors had a great time making friends and the parents spent time watching from spectator boats and enjoying the clubs hospitality. The RPA family really bonded and all cannot wait for the next travelling event. Everyone commented on the quality and quantity of sailors currently being produced by Pittwater.
The regatta commenced with 3 days of on water RPA squad training for anyone who could arrive early followed by a registration day and practice race on Tuesday. Wednesday was typical Waterloo Bay conditions, 10-20 knots SE, chop and tide. 3 races were completed. Thursday was lost to no wind however a lot of fun was had by all. Friday began as day 2 with no wind however after a period of being held ashore and multiple attempts at starts, 2 races were completed in shifty light winds before being sent home for the day only for the wind to then become perfect just on dark. Once again the wind did not arrive for the final day of racing with only the 29er class getting a race away while the rest entertained themselves.
RPAYC sailors excelled with Nick Connor placing second overall and first Australian in the Laser Radial Class and Shane Connelly coming third. Current AUS Junior Champion, NSW Youth and Open Champion 29er crew Shaun Connor sailed without his regular skipper Jim Colley who has already departed for international events. Shaun teamed up with George Stent, their first sail together being the practice race. Together they took second overall in the championship beating the current ISAF Youth Worlds team, an outstanding performance. New 29er pairing Clare Costanzo and Pia Doyle were the first female team and Chelsea Connor was second in the Optimist Open girl’s competition.
The event concluded with a fantastic dinner presentation with special guests, 2012 Olympic 470 Gold medallists Matt Belcher and Mal Page along with Will Ryan (Matt’s 2016 crew), Victor Kovalenko the ‘medal maker’ super coach and RPA’s very own Mat and Rob Crawford who are part of the 470 Olympic development squad.
Plans are already being put in place for a return by all RPAYC participating families in 2014. 0nly 48 hours from arrival back to Sydney and at least two of our attending sailors are back on the water training. Everyone should mark their diaries now for Queensland Youth Week 2014, July 1-5 and start booking accommodation. It is a ‘must do’ event.
A special thankyou is extended to RPAYC who assisted the sailors with coaching support via IYF contributions, RQYS for again hosting a fabulous event and major sponsors of Australian Youth Sailing OAMPS Insurance Brokers.
Finally good luck to QYW participating RPA members Shaun Connor as he departs to join his Skipper Jim Colley for 29er events in the UK and Germany before the World Championships in Denmark, Xavier Winston Smith and Josh Dawson competing in the 420 World Championships and Chelsea Connor who will represent Australia in the Optimist Asian Championships.