After just one year, the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme has proved to be a resounding success. The scheme has already achieved some of its long-term aims by making keelboat racing more accessible to young sailors.
It is providing excellent training and placements on racing keelboats, and with the support provided to the selected sailors, it is hoped they will become the next generation of professional UK keelboat sailors.
Volvo and the RYA have both increased their support for the programme, which will provide two new performance managers in the North and South to support Dave ATKINSON, RYA Racing Services Manager, with programme development, team selection and training. Members will now also benefit from the RYA's well-established fitness, physiotherapy, psychology and nutrition programme.
The additional funding will also allow for increased participation within the scheme. There are already 21 members between the ages of 16-24, however the RYA will look to introduce more locally based selection and training. There are also plans for a tier system within the training structure to bridge the gap between those just joining the programme and those that have established themselves within it.
Successes in year one include team member Mike FERGUSON, who sailed on "Volvo for life - Team Tonic" being awarded the Duncan Munro-Kerr Youth Challenge Trophy, for being the youngest crew member on board a yacht which finishes in the top three of her IRC class.
Prior to attending a Volvo RYA keelboat selection weekend, Mike had been competing on the 1720 circuit in Northern Ireland, Mike had never been part of a previous RYA squad or programme, but displayed the talent and commitment required at the selection weekend to secure a place in the team. He then went on to secure his place aboard the Farr 52 for the 2003 race season.
Not only was Mike given the opportunity to compete in events such as the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Admiral's Cup, he has also been asked back as permanent crew for the 2004 season.
Mike Ferguson commented, "I have had an amazing year and without the programme would not have achieved all that I have. This has given me the opportunity to sail a boat that I only would have dreamed of sailing and I am looking forward to the 2004 season."
The culmination of the year was when Peter MORTON of Farr International lent the Volvo RYA Keelboat programme a Euro Prix 45 to race and train on from October to December, including competing in the Tyco Hamble Winter Series. The boat was fully crewed by programme sailors under the watchful eye of professional coaches each weekend.
The team trained and raced onboard the boat sailing with top coach Jim SALTONSTALL as well as attending a number of classroom sessions that were hosted by the programme partners, which included rules coaching with John DOERR, electronics with B&G and winch maintenance with Lewmar. The shore-based training will begin again towards the end of January with topics for the New Year including sponsorship and media training.
Keelboat squad member John GREENLAND said, "The team has been sailing almost every weekend since the start of the winter series benefiting from the help of several coaches. The team have not only been working on their sailing skills but also their onshore theory. This period has been a great opportunity for all of us on the programme and it is hoped that for next season the team will be able to draw on the talents of some more of Britain's top yachtsmen."
RYA Racing Services Manager Dave ATKINSON commented, "The programme in 2003 has been a resounding success and has demonstrated that there is a wealth of talent in keelboat sailing in all areas of the country. In 2004 we will be building on this success and further enhancing the programme whilst working with owners to place these committed and talented sailors aboard viable keelboat campaigns.
We will again be running several selection events throughout the country and have already had a number of applications from sailors to come to keelboat training events and hopefully gain selection to the programme."
Dates for the programme in 2004 will be issued on the RYA website during January and anybody wishing to get involved with in the programme should contact Jess MAPPLEBECK or David ATKINSON at the RYA.