Harken Youth Match Racing World Championships was 'amazing' experience for Boxford debutant Patrick Bray
After getting a taste of competing against some of the world’s most promising sailors, Boxford’s Patrick Bray is certainly hungry to get back for more.
Shortly before the coronavirus pandemic forced countries to go into lockdowns, the 21-year-old got a dream opportunity to represent Great Britain as part of a quintet at the Harken Youth Match Racing World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand.
It came after three of the crew, including Bray and all from South of England universities, triumphed in November’s UK National Championships at the Queen Mary Reservoir. They also came second in the youth version of the event at Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy over the last weekend of August.
At the junior worlds, which took place on keelboats from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club – set to stage the Americas Cup and youth version in 2021 – Bray’s team took eighth place out of 14 entries after five days of racing from February 26.
While the former Thomas Gainsborough School pupil was disappointed with their overall result in an Elliott 7, which came amid some tight margin finishes, he felt there was plenty to take away from it to drive him on.
“It was difficult to go there as there was some of the top ranked teams in the world and the majority of the guys who were invited are all ranked in the top 10,” he said.
“We are 39th and had been 54th before that so it was a high calibre event for us and it was just amazing to be involved in it.
“It was the first time I had sailed outside of Europe and it was a fantastic place to sail as Auckland Harbour is really exciting with so much going on from a sailing point of view.
“I am disappointed with the result, but for our first major international event it is not so bad.
“There is definitely a lot to take forward into the next few events and there is a lot of positives to draw from it.”
Bray, who was close to completing his penultimate year of a sports & exercise science with a performance sailing element built in at Chichester University, had been hoping to go on to the European Championships in Italy in June. But with the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, he is now not sure when he will take to the water again.
The former Bxford Primary and Stoke-by-Nayland Middle School pupil has a university holidays job as an instructor at Alton Water near Ipswich, which has had to close down.
He also does not know if the team he sailed with in New Zealand, named Absolute, will be able to compete together again.
“For the team now it is quite uncertain with people finishing at university,” he said. “So we will see if the season starts again where people are at and what event we can get involved with.
“It would be nice to go to the Europeans and try and win that, it might be postponed until the winter time.”
But while he is enjoying competing at the top echelons of his chosen sport, having taken it up from the age of seven at Alton Water, he is realistic about how he may have the best chance of being involved at the Olympics.
“I would like to be involved in it from a sports science point of view,” he said.
“With the delay in the Olympics and the Americas Cup in 20201 that would be exciting to try and get in on as sailing is changing quite a lot and becoming a lot more athletic. The boats have become faster and more powerful and generally requiring serious athleticism, certainly for the Americas Cup.”
He added: “I would love to be involved as a sailor but I think in reality there are guys who are a little bit ahead of me with that one. But it would be nice to be involved in a different way as well.”