Around 1,000 budding young sailors enjoy great racing at this year's championship

Many of the country’s junior sailors competed over the weekend of the 26/27 June 2004 at the RYA Zone Championships. Around 1000 young sailors, some new to racing and others hoping for a place in the RYA Zone Squad, were sailing in six area zones across England.

Under the watchful eye of coaches and RYA High Performance Managers the weekend, which was regarded as an indicator for the RYA Zone Squads, was an opportunity for budding sailors to progress through the RYA Junior Programme.

The wet weather that covered the country did nothing to dampen the spirits of the youngsters racing in Optimists, Cadets, Mirrors, Toppers, Windsurfers, Dragoons and a range of dinghies in the handicap fleets.

Experiencing particularly bad weather were sailors and supporters in the South and South West Zones. Charlie Poyner from Emsworth Sailing Club began his path to Olympic glory by winning the Optimist Class, one of the largest fleets racing with forty five entries. In second place just one point behind was Aaron Smith of Chichester Yacht Club. From all the fleets racing at Weymouth no more than two points ever separated the top two finishers highlighting the close racing that the young sailors, all under the age of fifteen, enjoyed.

Further down the coast at Mounts Bay the swell from the southerly breezes provided some fantastic racing for the youngsters. Enjoying the waves in the Topper class was Sam Coombes from Clevedon Sailing Club who surfed his way to first place, beating Simon Bower of Paignton Sailing Club, who finished second.

From the swell of the south coast to the inland waters of the west, sailors enjoyed very different conditions at Draycote Sailing Club. Eight classes were racing including two windsurfing fleets and unlike the champions in the south the winners in the west dominated the racing. In the Topper fleet, the largest at Draycote reservoir, Tom Hayes from South Staffordshire took line honours in four races and counting a fourth as his worst result, he won the class by nine points from West Kirby Sailing Clubs Joe Williams.

Also racing inland was the North Zone, sailing on Pitsford reservoir and under the flag of Northampton Sailing Club. In a range of conditions from five to fifteen knots the skills of the sailors were tested to the full and subsequently spectators enjoyed watching some tight racing. On his home turf Tom Taylor won the Optimist fleet and in the windsurfers they had the largest turn out from the six RYA Zones.

In the East Zone the young sailors had the added complication of tides to contend with as their championship was hosted by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham on Crouch. In the Cadet class the Dallimore family dominated the podium. Using their local knowledge of the river, Sara Dallimore, crewing for Amelia Hughes fended off both her brother and sister to win the RYA East Zone Championship. James and Clare Dallimore also of the Corinthian Otters finished second, three points behind.

Over the Dartford Bridge the RYA South East Zone were holding their championships at Bewl Valley Sailing Club. Windsurfers made up four out of the seven classes racing and it was Bewl Valley sailors and Hythe and Saltwood Sailing club members battling it out over the weekend. Sailing for Bewl Valley Sailing Club, Sam Moffatt won the 5.5m class and Kim Jiskoot won the 6.5m class. In the 3.5m fleet Jack Brooks won all six races and Andrew Petts followed suit in the 4.5m class.

In the dinghies, Adrian Clay from the Wraysbury Lake Sailing Club put in a convincing performance in the 21 boat Optimist class, winning the fleet by fourteen points. This left a close fight for second and third place, but in the end a final fourth place was enough for Fiona Hampshire to secure second place from Matthew Goacher who had to settle for third after finishing the last race in eleventh place.

Summing up the weekends championships across the country RYA Junior Squads Manager Duncan Truswell said, “The championships have been an excellent platform for junior sailors to hone their racing skills and as an indicator to progress through the RYA Junior Programme. It was a great opportunity for the kids to experience some serious racing organised by the six sailing clubs who did a terrific job. It seemed that the young sailors thoroughly enjoyed their time on the water and we hope that the weekend events will encourage them to take their racing career to the next level.”