This weekend (16-17 March) seventeen selected young sailors from the RYA attended the trials to have one of two fully funded Etchells yachts and join in the Solent fleet racing for 2013.
The loaned boats have been made available by the generosity of Ted Fort, Admiral of the British Fleet, and long term supporter of the Class. Following an introduction to the Fleet from Class Captain David Franks, Graham Sunderland, author of Winning Tides, gave an excellent presentation about the tides in the Solent, especially over the tricky Bramble Bank where most windward leeward Etchells racing takes place.
David Bedford, professional sailor and coach, and Duncan Truswell , RYA Youth Racing Manager, joined in a discussion on safety in the Solent and in particular about the special rules regarding large ships in the exclusion zone.
The sailors were then introduced to the Etchells yacht and had practical rigging and set up demonstrations on the dock. Amongst on the water coaching team was match racer Mark Lees, who came to the Etchells via the British Keelboat Academy and is now sailing regularly in the Fleet.
After lunch at the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club, who hosted the event, the sailors broke into teams and went practice sailing, with the aim of familiarising themselves with the boats before Sunday when many short races were held before the breeze became too light.
The sailors who will be selected to race the two boats available will be chosen shortly. All the young sailors were excited by the opportunity, and the chance to sail against an experienced fleet including the young ex-Cadet sailors who are joining the fleet for the first time this year. The fleet are great supporters of the RYA Youth Racing programme, and the Etchells is an excellent next step from dinghies to keelboats.
Duncan Truswell, RYA Youth Racing Manager, summed up the weekend : "On behalf of the class and the RYA I would like to thank all the applicants for stepping up and helping us deliver an enjoyable and worthwhile weekend of coaching. The young sailors were all very motivated at the chance of such a great prize of one of the two fully funded Etchells to campaign and the associated opportunity to develop their one-design fleet racing and keelboat skills amongst such a technical and competitive fleet.
"It was clear that all the sailors were extremely capable, technically astute, and able to adapt what they already knew quickly and effectively to a different format of sailing. They were all very coach able, and keen to embrace the enthusiasm of the Class which is passionate about helping young sailors develop their skills and continue racing through increasingly challenging lifestyle changes."