FOR the first time, the annual Fish and Co Youth Sailing Championships will see foreign young sailors competing alongside their Singaporean counterparts.
Teams from Finland, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Myanmar will join local sailors in the March 18-22 competition at the National Sailing Centre.
They will compete in nine classes, with the top 10 sailors in each class entering a final medal race to decide the overall champions
"Our sailors have been establishing themselves at home, and we want to give them the experience of expanding out into the world stage," said Tan Wearn Haw, chief executive officer of the Singapore Sailing Federation.
"The medal racing format will let them have a taste of high stakes, short and sharp races, much like international sailing."
A total of 350 sailors are expected to take part, with this event a qualifying platform for the Youth Sailing World Championships in Portugal in July.
Reigning Optimist world champion Loh Jia Yi, 16, remains calm and confident despite having to make the switch to the double-handed 420 class this year.
He said: "When you're qualifying for the youth worlds, every event will be important. We just need to keep doing what we have to do."
For 15-year-old Ynez Lim, the competition carries extra weight.
Her performance in the Bic Techno event will determine whether she, or fellow sailors Cheyenne Chan and Mildred Phang, will be the Republic's sole windsurfing representative at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in August in China.
While she achieved a respectable third place last year in the same sailing class, she has determined to go for gold this time.
"The YOG has been something I've dreamed of since I started windsurfing. It was hard last year with a national line-up, so this year it'll be more challenging," says the SEA Games silver medallist.
This is the second year that Fish and Co is the title sponsor for the annual event, which is in its ninth year running.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.