The Home Nations Championship regatta at Largs opens the youth season this weekend boosted by the news that Alex Thomson, the British sailor, finished the Vendee Globe round-the-world race in third position.
Not only is Thomson one of three Britons to have achieved success in the race – he follows Ellen MacArthur, who was second in 2001, and Mike Golding, third in 2005 – but he is also the fastest: his time of 80 days, 19 hours and 23 minutes was more than eight days quicker than the previous best, set by Golding. Thomson had to retire on his first two attempts at the solo non-stop race, considered one of the toughest sailing challenges in the world.
It is held every four years and covers 27,000 miles of often inhospitable ocean. Exhaustion is a real danger as competitors can only grab sleep in 20-minute bursts and, despite having hi-tech equipment on board including satellite phones and email to contact the outside world, they cannot stop or accept help if they are in trouble. Twenty competitors set off from Les Sables in November but only 12 completed the gruelling challenge.
This weekend's regatta is then, the ideal training ground for cadets as they will experience very similar conditions sailing off Largs in February. Each of the four home nations will have six Lasers and six Toppers representing them, giving a total of 48 competing boats. Wales, who had a very strong Laser team, were victorious in last year's event.
Robin Paris, Scotland's Laser coach, is hopeful that Jack Aitken, from Rhu and Ian McLaughlin, from the British transitional squad, will lead a strong team.
It is a tall order to compete for your country at this level, and for Jack in particular it really is a huge achievement, having been named a member of the Great Britain youth squad. But Paris is confident that the boys will do Scotland proud.
Duncan Hepplewhite, the Topper coach includes Callum Rosie – a member of the Great Britain squad – in his team, which he expects to be hard to beat. Time, and this weekend, will tell if there is another Scot capable of following Alex Thomson's success.