Racing came to a thrilling climax in Auckland, New Zealand as all medals were confirmed in the finale of the 2016 Aon Youth World Sailing Championships.
Five gold medals had already been decided with a race to spare but there were still four golds on offer as well as silver and bronze to fight for in every fleet.
In the girl's Laser Radial it was anyone's guess who would claim the title. In contention was Germany's 2015 Youth Worlds silver medallist Hannah Anderssohn, Uruguay's Rio 2016 flag bearer, Dolores Moreira Fraschini and the reigning champion Maria Erdi (HUN). Sandra Luli (CRO) and Carolina Albano (ITA) were a little further back, but still in reach of a podium place.
Coming home in fifth ahead of her main rivals was Fraschini. The Uruguayan had completed her game plan, "I just knew I had to beat Germany, Hungary and Croatia. I was looking for them all through the race,” explained the new Youth Worlds champion.
When the win had sunk in Fraschini said, "I feel super happy. I had a good start but then a bad upwind, so I had to just focus on recovering. I kept gaining and then I crossed the line, it was like a dream come true.”
The dream was helped by Erdi finishing 13th and Anderssohn 19th. Those results also opened the door for Luli and Albano and dropped last year's medallists off the podium altogether.
It was Albano who came out fighting and headed straight for the front of the pack to win the final race. The Italian had done all she could and just had to sit and wait to see where her rivals would finish. Luli came home in sixth to give her 45 points to tie with Albano. Luli was awarded silver on countback.
With a lead of 27 points, Australia's Finnian Alexander just had to avoid a final day disaster to take the boy's Laser Radial title.
A smiling Alexander returned to shore after finishing 20th, enough to secure him the gold, "It feels so good and such a sense of relief after skating on thin ice all week,” said Alexander.
That 'thin ice' was a disqualification from the very first race. A score that could have derailed his ambitions, "It took a lot to come back from that,” said the relieved Aussie, "but crucial that I did. It's not the ideal start but it feels really good to know that I can carry myself through a regatta like I did from there.”
Italy's Paolo Giargia had a seven point cushion over USA's Carrson Pearce and Spain's Ismael Iess Falcon. That cushion was enough in the end to give the Italian a silver medal as he crossed the line in 11th and Pearce ninth. Pearce took the bronze medal from Falcon as the Spanish sailor could only finish in 26th place.
Great Britain's Crispin Beaumont and Tom Darling took gold in the boy's 29er following a final race duel with France's Gwendal Nael and Lilian Mercier.
Starting the day four points behind their French rivals, the British team had to come out with a game plan. Beaumont explained, "We wanted to stay close to them and try and bounce them to the wrong side of the course because we knew there was a favoured side when we started.”
Even with a plan, any sailor knows that they can change on the fly when it comes to race time, "Once we were out there though it was made up as we went along as there is so much that goes on that you can never fully plan.”
Made up or not, Beaumont and Darling finished in third and had to sit and wait to see where the French team would finish. They crossed the line in tenth and the gold was there's.
Beaumont's immediate reaction to claiming a Youth Worlds was relief, "We feel pretty good. We had so much catching up to do in that race and things went our way and it happened.”
With gold and silver confirmed it was down to Australia's John Cooley and Simon Hoffman to complete the podium. With a comfortable lead over the fourth placed Finnish team, the Aussies crossed the line in fourth to rubber stamp their medal.
Australia's Natasha Bryant and Annie Wilmot knew they had a gold medal in the girl's 29er and it was down to Poland and New Zealand for silver and bronze.
Kiwi sisters Greta and Kate Stewart had to finish with two boats between them and Aleksandra Melzacka and Maja Micinska (POL) to move up in to second place, but it wasn't to be. The Polish girls covered the Kiwis and crossed the line just behind the sixth placed sisters. Silver to Poland and the bronze for the New Zealand girls.
Poland's Julia Szmit and Hanna Dzik successfully defended their girl's 420 title. The Polish duo were top leading in to the final race and never looked like coming away with anything other than gold.
Winning for the second year in a row, the Polish girl's felt they had something to show the world, "We proved that we are good. We won last year and this year helped to prove we are good,” Szmit said emphasizing her point.
Alexandra Stalder and Silvia Speri (ITA) claimed silver when they crossed in sixth and finished on 38 points. Although France's Violette Dorange and Camille Orion finished above the Italians in fourth they could not overhaul the points deficit and had to settle for the bronze medal.
Israel and Argentina were fighting for silver in the boy's 420 as USA's Wiley Rogers and Jack Parkin already had the gold in the bag from the previous day. It was Ido Bilik and Ofek Shalgi (ISR) who took the silver in style from their Argentinean rivals Fausto Peralta and Martin Arroyo Verdi with a bullet in the final race. Peralta and Verdi had to settle for bronze.
Great Britain's Emma Wilson and Israel's Yoav Omer had already confirmed gold before the final race so left the rest of the potential medallists to fight it out for podium spots.
Sil Hoekstra (NED) knew that if he finished near the top of the fleet he would have a boy's RS:X silver medal. The Dutch sailor duly obliged and finished fifth to secure second place. It was the fight for bronze that really was the story of the final race as China's Chen Hao Chen took a bullet and had to sit and wait to see where Aruba's Mack van den Eerenbeemt would come in behind him. Van den Eerenbeemt could only manage an 11th and was distraught as he crossed the line knowing he had slipped off the Youth Worlds podium.
In a carbon copy of the boy's fleet, the girl's RS:X had a fight for bronze as its centrepiece. Israel's Katy Spychakov was this time looking for a top order finish and took silver with a third. For bronze it was between China's Yue Tan and Peru's Maria Belen Bazo. This time the Chinese sailor missed out as she was disqualified handing Peruvian Bazo the bronze medal.
With Tim Mourniac and Charles Dorange (FRA) comfortably winning gold with a race to spare it was down to Italy, USA and Belgium to battle for the podium.
Three in two doesn't go and it was Gianluigi Ugolini and Maria Giubilei (ITA) who were the unfortunate ones. They finished 12th which dropped them from second overnight to out of the medals entirely. Romain Screve and Ian Brill (USA) finished 14th but discarded that result to leave them on 55 points. Henri Demesmaeker and Isaura Maenhaut finished on the same points tally with a fifth place finish. Both sitting on the same overall score, it was USA who took silver and Belgium bronze on countback.
Italy won the Nations Trophy for the third time and will collect the award along with all the medal winners at the closing ceremony at the Auckland University of Technology City campus.
By Richard Aspland - World Sailing