Junior Sailing, a Guide to Get Going! By Nick Welbourn
If you’re sailing at junior level you may think that as autumn approaches the season draws to a close, but if you’re enjoying your sailing and want to improve, winter can be the best time to do this.
Some smaller clubs reduce the amount of sailing that’s available over the winter months so it’s worth persuading your parents to put the boat on the roof rack so that you can take advantage of some of the great training opportunities that exist through Class Associations. Before moving into Lasers (4.7s & now just starting in a Radial), I sailed a Topper for 4 years and the International Topper Class Association (ITCA) offers a great programme of locally based training each winter. From first starting out to when competing at National Squad level I found that it really helped me to gain knowledge, not only from the coaches, but through meeting other sailors who sail the same type of boat and who can share tips and advice on which events to attend and how to progress. Aside from that it was also great fun! Here are some links that detail what’s available across some of the Junior and Youth classes;- Toppers in can be found here - Optimists here - Laser 4.7s here
Some smaller sailors can find it off putting when the weather turns colder, but if you’ve got the right clothing then sailing can be just as enjoyable whatever the weather. In my first season I was less than 40kg and was advised to wear a dry-suit. This was fine once I’d realised that it’s what you wear underneath, not the suit itself, that keeps you warm. But as soon as I started doing events that involved staying on the water for longer, a wetsuit layering system became a much more practical option and something that I found I much preferred. Rooster sell a great range of kit for sailors of all sizes and in a previous blog I talked in more detail about what I’ve found works best for me. You can read my blog about that here and you can find Rooster's guide to layering here.After training over the winter I love the feeling that you get when you start to compete again and can put into practice what you’ve learned. It’s as if you’re taking off a blindfold as you find out where you are in the rankings again. When you’ve tried club racing a good next step is to enter open events on your local traveller circuit, these generally start in the spring and details will be published on your Class Association website. In my experience these events tend to be really friendly and welcoming and if you’ve done winter training through the Class Association they’re a great way to meet up again with the friends that you’ve made from other clubs. Running alongside Class Association training is the RYA Junior Squad system. This is open to sailors generally aged 10-15 and provides a brilliant way to access some great quality coaching. To get on board you need to qualify by competing and doing well in certain selection events which generally take place in late summer each year. The selection criteria and dates of the events that you need to attend are published on the RYA website here. If you’re interested in taking part, it's worth contacting the RYA and speaking to your local High Performance Manager – you can find their details here. I started on the pathway to national sailing more or less by accident (and partly due to my mum’s bad geography) and I’m hoping that by sharing these tips it may be easier for others to make the most of what’s on offer. I think the best advice that I can give is; don’t be afraid to enter events and try things that are new - remember that most sailors are happy to share experiences and give advice. Don’t be put off if things don’t work out as planned straight away, enjoy your sailing and if you’re going to be winter training in a Laser Radial this year I’ll see you on the water, come and say "Hi!"
Nick Welbourn :-)