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Sebastian Kempe seals historic gold at Youth Sailing World Championships

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Sebastian Kempe

Sebastian Kempe sailed his way into the history books at the Youth Sailing World Championships in Al Mussanah, Oman yesterday.

The Bermudian capped a phenomenal debut at the international regatta after securing the gold medal, the island’s first at the event, in the men’s Laser Radial class.

The 16-year-old finished sixth in the final race of the nine -race series to pip Luka Zabukovec, of Slovakia, and José Gomes Saraiva Mendes, of Portugal, by a solitary point for the title.

“I am really, really humbled to be receiving this award,” an elated Kempe told The Royal Gazette. “All of the people who have won this in the past are the greats of the sport, and to have my name on that plaque now is incredible.

“I am very proud of the way that I have worked in the past year and I’m really honoured that a Bermudian can be considered on this stage.”

Tom Clarke, the Bermuda Sailing Association president, hailed the sailor’s phenomenal and historic feat.

“A huge congratulations to Sebastian Kempe for winning the 2021 Youth Sailing World Championships in Oman,” he said. “This is a first for a Bermudian to win this event so huge congrats to him and his team.”

Kempe went into the final race of the nine-race series in second, seven-points behind overnight leader Mendes, and lost further ground after getting off to a poor start.

“I had a six-point lead over Zabukovec and a seven-point deficit to Mendes and started the race doing quite badly,” added Kempe, who posted four top three finishes en route to the title, including three first-place finishes.

“I rounded the first mark in 20th and Zabukovec was winning the race and Mendes was 21st. This meant that I would be in third place overall because Zabukovec would beat both Mendes and I.”

Despite falling off the lead pace, Kempe kept his cool and confidence as he gradually worked his back to the front of the fleet.

“I stayed calm and kept repeating to myself that I knew I could come back because I had speed and knew what was going on,” he added.

Kempe made huge gains on the final beat to the top mark to move to within striking distance of the gold medal position.

“The last upwind of the race I took a lot of boats,” he said. “I went from about 20th to eighth and at that point in the race the fleet was very spread out.”

Despite making up considerable ground on the penultimate leg he still had plenty to do on the final downwind run to the finish line in order to seal gold.

“There was a lot of distance and I think a lot of people’s heads would go because I was pretty far behind and knew I had to make up two more boats, but I stuck with it,” Kempe added. “I knew I had to get sixth in order to stay on top of Zabukovec and then beat Mendes.

“I found some pressure, pushed the boat to the limit of the rules and right at the end I made one more manoeuvre and caught the last boat and rounded the mark and all the way to the finish line.

“This week has been a real uphill battle. It’s been a comeback that was really, really hard fought for.”

Zabukovec earned the silver on a tie-break after finishing level on points with Mendes.

It is the second historic feat Kempe has achieved this year having earned the island’s first medal – a bronze – at the Laser Radial Youth World Championships in Lake Garda, Italy, in August.

“I don’t really focus on being the first Bermudian to do things,” he said. “I try to be the best I can be and if I accomplish that and accomplish being the first Bermudian then that’s a plus.

“But for me I want to accomplish so much more than being the first Bermudian. My aspirations are to be the best of all time and not just the first Bermudian.

“This is one step along that road and to lead the pack of Bermudians I hope inspires many coming after me to continue doing what I do.”

Meanwhile, also representing Bermuda at the Youth Sailing World Championships was Nicole Stovell, who finished 32nd among the 46-strong women’s Laser Radial class.

“Also congratulations to Nicole,” BSA president Clarke said. “It’s her first big world event so that’s an excellent result for her as well.”

Anja von Allmen, of Switzerland, won the gold medal with Théa Lubac, of France, and Eve McMahon, of Ireland, securing silver and bronze.

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Published December 18, 2021 at 8:13 am (Updated December 19, 2021 at 2:05 am)

Sebastian Kempe seals historic gold at Youth Sailing World Championships

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