01 August 2023
Ruben and Rita Booth (AUS), children of legendary multihull sailor Mitch Booth, hung on all week, surviving a late challenge, to win the 2023 Junior World Championships by three points.
In the final race they found themselves outside of the top ten while Archie Gargett with Sarah Hoffman (AUS) charged forward into the race lead. With a five-point gap separating the two overall, that point gap was enough to reverse the overall leaderboard in the final race.
But the Booth siblings focussed inward on their sailing and targeted passes, making strong gains on the middle lap. Come the final rounding, the Booths were up to sixth, with a bit more work to do. They found their downwind rhythm quickly and managed to pass three more boats to come third in the race, securing their first Junior World title.
“It takes a lot of hours to nail the downwinds, and we’ve been putting in the time,” said Rita.
The Booths train in Europe, mostly in the Southern Mediterranean ports of Barcelona and Palamos, despite sailing for Australia.
The rest of the Australian squad, which finished second and fourth, respectively, train down under in a group of five four under the leadership of Darren Bundock. The Gargett/Hoffman pair won their only race in the series’ final race, but only had one race outside the top six all week. Their racing skill consistently shone through, despite only being in the boat for a year.
Gargett/Hoffman had a harrowing episode during training some months ago, where they got caught in a squall in Botany Bay, where they train most often. The boat got picked up and was cartwheeling downwind.
Archie held on while Sarah was separated from the boat and helm. The boat washed up on the breakwall to the Sydney airport, shutting down operations, while Archie jumped clear at the last moment, ‘only’ breaking his wrist in the process. A search was immediately launched for Sarah, as the worst was feared.
The fit youngster took matters into her own hands, however, and swam back to the club, an estimated distance of 3 or 4km. Undaunted, the pair are back on the water and pushing as hard as they can.
There is a lot going on with the Australian squad as their leading contenders, Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, recently announced Jason’s retirement from Nacra 17 sailing. That leaves the remaining four members of their training group, plus Lisa, who is seeking replacement helm, plus the Booths to seek Australian representation in Paris 2024.
“We’ve been told what we need to do to qualify,” said Ruben Booth. “Of course this opens up a big opportunity, but there are many good teams pushing for it.”
Following a protest in the last race, the French team was disqualified from the last race, promoting Brin Liddell and Rhiannan Brown into third place, completing the Aussie sweep. The pair train with the second place team full time, and also often train with the full Aussie squad, with both Junior and Senior sailors supported in a domestic training program… gotta be something to that!
In Fifth place overall was Margaux Billy with Noa Chauvin (FRA). The pair won four of the last five races but suffered two DNF’s on day one and a few higher-placed scores through the week, showing themselves capable of top-place performance, but it wasn’t their week.
To reinforce how it wasn’t their week, they were DSQ’d from the final race of the regatta moving them two spots down in the overall standings. They also train with a strong squad of four teams, including multi-world champion Billy Besson (FRA) to which they credit a lot of their learning.
The 2023 Junior World Championship was a great step forward for the Nacra 17 class, with a record 20 boats attending and 74 Nacra 15 teams being able to see the Olympic craft.
The regatta was run spectacularly by the Royal Belgium Sailing Club, which is a fantastic beach club on the ‘Belgium riviera’. With music playing and well over a hundred beach cats, boards, and other foilers it’s clearly a place of great play and learning to sail.
Junior Worlds 2023 results here.