FELPHAM ONBOARD KIDS RACING TO SAILING SUCCESS
Five Felpham Sailing Club youngsters will be receiving World Class coaching and competition support from sailing’s national governing body after first learning the ropes through a nationwide grassroots programme to get more school kids sailing.
Fin Swanton, Sam Brackley, Alfie Lester, Jack Miller and Lauren Bentley were all initially introduced to sailing through their schools’ involvement in the RYA OnBoard scheme at Felpham SC, and have now been selected for training squads supported by the RYA on the pathway to Olympic Classes sailing for 2015-16.
RYA OnBoard provides low cost, accessible sailing opportunities for schools and youth groups, enabling kids aged 8-18 to learn to sail. If the youngsters enjoy the sport, and want to start taking it more seriously, OnBoard clubs have pathways in place to enable them to develop their skills further and, if they wish, start racing.
Now the Felpham quintet has a winter of top-level race training from some of the country’s leading junior coaches to look forward to as they prepare for next season.
All five are part of Felpham’s thriving Cadets section, which regularly sees 120 youngsters sail at the club on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in the summer. Their achievement in gaining squad selections for the next year is not an accident.
Paul Miller, who runs Felpham’s Cadets section, explains: “We think this is a best ever year for the club in terms of squad selections and we’ve worked hard as a club over the past few years to help give our kids the chance to progress their sailing if they show the talent, potential and commitment to take their racing further.
“Felpham is a beach launching and tidal club and the challenges this presents has meant in the past it has been difficult for our Cadets to get enough regular sailing in the right type of boats to be considered for RYA pathway squads.
"But in a new venture for the club, our top cadets are now encouraged to race against our adult members and compete in class and youth events locally and further afield ready to take part in the squad selection events at the end of the summer.
“Last year we had two sailors selected for regional RYA Zone Squads and these successes have certainly moved things on this year with many more Cadets reaching out and trying to access sought-after squad places.”
Three of the selected youngsters all sail the one-person Topper class, while two compete together in the two-person RS Feva class.
Fin, 13, has been selected for the RYA South Zone Topper Squad for the second year running, as well as landing a place in the Topper class’s National 4.2 squad. The Topper 4.2 is sailed by younger or smaller sailors before they use the full-size sail.
Meanwhile attitude and commitment have seen Sam, 11, and 12-year-old Alfie invited to train alongside the RYA South Zone Topper Squad to gain more experience and develop their skills after just two years of racing.
Jack, 14, and 16-year-old Lauren have impressed on the RS Feva circuit this year, after being part of the RYA South and South East Zone Squad over the winter, and have now achieved selection for the RS Feva class’ National Squad.
Paul adds: “Being part of RYA OnBoard at Felpham means we can introduce kids to sailing who may never otherwise have had the chance through links within the local community. Many OnBoard sailors join our Cadets where they can then master the basics, learn to race and progress into our own performance squad with RYA squad places now a realistic target.”
Since 2005, over half a million kids have been introduced to sailing and windsurfing through RYA OnBoard, with around 10% taking up the sport on a regular basis. There are almost 250 RYA OnBoard clubs and centres nationwide.