Budding young sailors enjoy great racing at the RYA Zone Championships held around the country last weekend

Around 1,100 young sailors, some new to racing and others hoping for a place in the one of the RYA Zone Squads, competed over the weekend 1-2 October at the RYA Zone Championships. Sailing in six area zones across England, many of the counties’ junior sailors turned out to see how they could fare on the race course.

As part of a scheme developed by the RYA, the weekend gave the youngsters a chance to experience high quality racing in a well organised environment. 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.

Strong winds across the country did nothing to dampen the spirits of the youngsters racing in Optimists, Cadets, Mirrors, Toppers, Windsurfers, Hobie Dragoons and a range of dinghies in the handicap fleets.

A total of 277 boats and over 360 sailors attended the RYA South Zone Championships to test out the London 2012 Olympic Sailing venue at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA). With windy weather on both days, sailors were full of energy and the racing was just as exciting. Battling it out for the top spot in the Laser 4.7 were Philip Garner from Warsash and Tom Hayes from Blithfield. The two 15-year-olds took two wins each; however, Garner took a third place and Hayes a fourth, leaving Garner with the Championship crown.

Duncan Truswell, RYA Junior Racing Manager praised WPNSA: “This was the biggest event that WPNSA has held since officially opening their doors. They hosted a great event and we can’t thank them enough for all the hard work they put in. The competition at this event was at an all time high just proving that we may have a future Olympian in our midst.”

At Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Burnham, Oliver Herve and Charlie Barr sailed just one of 145 boats enjoying the brisk breeze at the East Zone Championship. The pair pushed their Cadet to the limits claiming a consistent string of first places and the top position in the Cadet fleet.

The South West Zone Championships, held at Restronguet Sailing Club, also got off to a slow start when blustery conditions forced officials to call off the first day of racing. Andy Walsh, RYA Team GBR Tornado sailor held coaching workshops and gave the land-bound young sailors some top racing tips. On Sunday the weather proved to be better, as glorious sunshine and an ideal 12-18 knots prevailed. With four races sailed in shifty conditions the budding sailors really got to show off their skills.

Sailing to victory at Ullswater Yacht Club was Charlotte Greenhalgh. Competing in the Topper class, Greenhalgh was one of 99 sailors to compete in the West Zone Championships. In the Optimist, Callum Stewart also proved to be unstoppable winning the Optimist fleet two points ahead of his nearest competitor.

The north saw 98 competitors roll up to Carsington Sailing Club to compete for the Zone title. Sailors enjoyed five races in gusty conditions with Saturday’s strong winds proving too much for some of the competitors.

An enthusiastic Ellie Furneaux, who was competing at the Weymouth event, in a Dragoon with her brother commented: “I would definitely do the Zone Championships again. The best part of the event was being out on the racecourse. It was great, I enjoyed it loads!”

Summing up the weekend championships across the country RYA Junior Racing Manager Duncan Truswell said: “I have nothing but praise for the junior sailors who are a credit to the organisation in the way they conducted themselves both on and off the water. I speak for all the staff within Youth Racing and specifically the Zone Coaches when I say we are very much looking forward to working with the sailors over the course of the winter and we hope that the weekend events will encourage them to take their racing career to the next level.”

John Derbyshire, RYA Racing Manager summed up: “This has been a fantastic weekend for the RYA Junior Programme. This was the biggest multi class event RYA has delivered in recent years and our thanks go out the several hundred volunteers who gave up their time to help us lay on such an important weekend in the junior calendar.”