Throughout the Easter bank holiday weekend over 250 of Ireland’s top young sailors will complete their final preparations before making their annual pilgrimage to compete at the ISA Youth National Championships.
From the 4th to the 7th of April, Lough Derg Yacht Club will be the host venue for the most prestigious youth sailing event on the domestic calendar. All of the ISA Performance Pathway classes will be represented for top racing afloat and on the shore side sailors can look forward to inspirational talks from some of our recent Olympians.

As well as quality racing, up for grabs will be the coveted places on summer squads and teams for international events. With almost 200 sailors already entered, racing will be hotly contested and rivalries will be renewed. 

ISA Youth sailor of the year Finn Lynch, from the National YC, will be keen to retain his Laser Radial title. Having won the event last year he went on to secure a rare silver medal at the ISAF Youth World Championships. However it is by no means a walk in the park. A staggering 27 Irish lasers competed in the recent Italian Europa Cup. Fionn Lyden, from Baltimore SC beat 164 competitors to take the title and Robbie Gilmore from Strangford Lough took second. Both will compete against Lynch in Lough Derg who won bronze at the Italian event. Sarah Eames, also from Strangford Lough, did not compete in Italy but having won a bronze medal at the Europeans in 2012 she will be favourite to win her discipline.

In the 420s boys the competition will be just as fierce. After an injury setback over the winter Patrick Crosbie and Grattan Roberts can no longer be considered favourites but Ireland’s 2012 Youth World representatives certainly cannot be ruled out. Adam Hyland and Bill Staunton will push all the way, as will Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove. Newcomers to the class have also made huge strides over the winter thanks to well organised 420 class training and proactive sessions at club level. The 420 girls will slightly more open with no crew showing out-and-out dominance at this stage. The McDowell's from Malahide would hope to follow in fellow club member Ciara Peelo’s footsteps, who won a bronze in the 1996 youth worlds and went on to represent Ireland at the 2008 Olympics.

The Topper class sailors have been working hard all winter in both their club and regional squads and the national squad under the guidance of Simon Doran. As the most successful junior pathway class, eyes will be firmly trained on this fleet to see if we have a future Ryan Seaton or Philip Doran emerging. Indeed the girls need look no further than Sarah Eames for inspiration. It is the girls in the class that have made the early running over the winter with Nicole Hemeryck showing some great form.

Also on the course will be the Laser 4.7 and FEVA sailors, with both boats used as a stepping-stone into other pathway classes, predicting who might emerge at the top is an art in itself. Whatever the outcome, a lot of fun will be had with sailors testing their skills early in the season.

On a separate race course for the week the 60 strong Optimist fleet will contest the first leg of their annual trials for representing Ireland abroad at a host of summer events. With many of last years eligible sailors already graduated into 420’s this is one of the most open years yet for selection. The Durcan brothers from RCYC have both shown great form over the winter and are bound to feature but such is the talent in this class it is too difficult to name all contenders.

So while some see selection for teams as the “Holy Grail” it will be the camaraderie and craic that these dinghy sailing devotees will remember for years to come. Hopefully, with divine intervention, the weather gods will look kindly on us and the cold snap will be a distant memory when racing begins on April 4th.

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