Iain Percy was at the London Boat Show today (Sunday) presenting the latest Volvo RYA Champion Club awards

Finn Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy was on centre stage at the Earls Court Boat Show today presenting the latest Volvo RYA Champion Club awards. Since its launch in 1999, this awards scheme, aimed at encouraging young sailors at grass roots level to progress in the sport through local club sailing, has grown from strength to strength and now boosts 125 Champion Clubs.

For clubs to achieve Champion status they have to meet a criteria set by the RYA which is aimed specifically at youth sailing. To qualify clubs must have: an affordable youth membership, male and female racing coaches, two junior and youth fleets of dinghies or boards, a social programme for young members and offer competitive racing opportunities for young members. Once the RYA is satisfied with the standard, a Volvo RYA Champion Club award is presented.

But it’s not just down to reaching the required RYA criteria, the essential ingredients come from those at the helm, voluntary club members who dedicate their lives to ensuring the scheme is a success. Among the 12 clubs collecting awards today including members from Waldringfield SC, Poole YC, Seaview YC and Aldridge SC, were a couple of youngsters from Budworth SC, brothers Stewart (11) and Andrew Brown (9) who were keen to tell Yachting World how thrilled they were that their club is now champion! “it’s a great achievement for our club but the success is really down the adults who made it happen including John Chapman, my dad Harry, Phil Hackney and Rodney Martin who have put a lot of work in. We have so much enthusiasm from all the younger sailors at our club and it’s good that all the older members encourage them.’

Ian Hankinson from Aldridge SC in the West Midlands is one of the team responsible for his club’s success, “We only have a very small club but we have children aged from 10-16 coming through including from the local schools. We have a small group of children sailing Toppers every Sunday morning regardless of what the weather is like. In fact, they are so keen they are probably out today breaking the ice, we just can’t stop them. Our initial intention was not to sail at all in the winter, but the children just love it and we have to go with their enthusiasm. We’ve also found that by bringing non-sailing children in to the club from the schools, their parents are getting involved which can only be a good sign for the club.’

Iain Percy who won a gold medal in the Finn class at the Sydney Olympic Games was lucky enough to have come from a sailing family and been a member of a club which has a good youth scheme. However, he also understands how difficult it is for children of non-sailing families to get involved with the sport and knows just how important this new scheme is. “There is a lot of young sailing talent at grass root sailing clubs which would probably not be recognised if Champion Club scheme was not around.’

To find out if your club could be eligible for Champion Club status, contact Steve Joel, the RYA Youth Manager, on 023 8062 7400.