He is currently lying in 2nd place in the Southern Topper Traveller Series and looks to be a youngster to watch out for over the next few years in the single handed dinghies. Here Dan talks to us about the RYA pathway and how he has progressed since taking up sailing at the age of 10. 

“I first got into sailing when Mum and Dad paid for me to go on a four day sailing course locally as a birthday present. It was held at Dorchester Sailing Club, in Optimists and Toppers. It was Easter 2013 and it snowed! Mum came to pick me up after the first day thinking that I would be freezing cold and hating it but I had loved it and said to her ‘I feel at home here!’ I covered the RYA Level 1 and most of Level 2. 

“After that I also used to crew for whoever I could, whenever I could and also used to sail the club Picos and Toppers. I would spend all day out on the lake just sailing around. My Dad then bought an old Enterprise so I sailed that too. As I got more experienced I would take any opportunity to have a go in other people’s boats if they offered me the chance. 

“I then joined the club and as a member was able to go on courses in the spring and autumn that would run for a couple of hours on a Sunday for six weeks. I got my RYA Level 3 and 4 certificates this way and continued in the Start Racing group. After some time I became confident enough to sail in the Sunday racing at the club. Then I went to a Try Out event at Farmoor reservoir to get in the team for the NSSAs. I sailed in the event at Deal in a Feva with a friend from DSC. It was the first time on the sea for both of us with challenging launching and a good breeze. We were meant to be in the Novice fleet but would not have been allowed to use the spinnaker so we decided to sail in the Slow Handicap fleet instead; we were both pretty nervous but neither of us wanted to let the other down so we got on with it and did OK. 

"The RYA has been of enormous help to me. Dorchester SC is an OnBoard Club and that is where I first started. I have learnt so much from the RYA Squad coaching having spent two seasons in the South Zone Squad and one season with the National Junior Squad – all an amazing experience. I learnt so much both about sailing and also about myself - sailing often makes you step outside your comfort zone and push things a bit. You can surprise yourself. 

"I became fully committed to the Topper when decided that I wanted to buy a boat of my own so I started saving up. I was aiming to get a Laser but I was pretty light so it was suggested I looked at getting a Topper. I saw a Topper event advertised at Farmoor so decided to have a go. I was by then a Junior member at Oxford Sailing Club and ODSSA (Oxford District Schools Sailing Association) which lent me a boat to compete in. We didn’t know anything about the circuits and squads but it turned out that this event, a Topper Traveller, was also a selection event. I ended up taking part in the other selection events and applied for a RYA Squad place – I was successful and got a place in the South Zone Squad which slightly surprised me as I was still quite light so thought I might have been selected for the 4.2 squad. However I soon embarked on a growth spurt and I would have looked a bit out of place in a 4.2 by the end of the year! 

"As I became more involved through the selection events we heard about the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) boat awards. The charity awards the use of their boats exclusively to a handful of lucky applicants each year. I applied and was successful. In November 2014 Dad and I went to pick up my new boat – I was so proud to have such a fantastic, clean, shiny new boat to use with all the race parts and a crispy new sail! 

"Over the past 12 months I have competed in all the Southern Topper Traveller Series to date (2nd place currently), all the Topper National Series to date (not my best season), the Topper Nationals at Pwllheli (42nd – bit disappointed) and the Topper Worlds at Loctudy (17th). In the next 12 months I have a couple of Topper events coming up – the last of the Travellers and the Area Championships and then it is all Lasers; my first event is a Worlds and Euro Qualifier at Hayling Island. I will probably do some of the other Qualifiers as well as the Youth week in Largs and the Laser National in Plymouth. Also maybe some of the Laser Grand Prix series and Club racing. 

"My ambition at the moment is to do my best and become as good as I can be. I would like to be in the Radial Squad in a few years’ time so I want to start working my way up the fleet, it’s very competitive. I’m not really looking further ahead than that at the moment as the Laser is so new to me. Short term I would like to become more consistent and improve my results.

"When I am old enough I would like to become qualified as a Dinghy Instructor. I am just under 6’ tall so am lucky that my size gives me choices; I had a go crewing in a 29er and also the Nacra 15 at Grafham this year and they were both incredibly fast and exciting however I decided that I want to take the single hander route and am transitioning into Lasers right now and that will keep me busy for a long time! I’ve always really liked the Finn so if mum can feed me enough to make me the right weight I would love to sail in that class one day! I will continue to train with the support of the RYA.

"I have applied for the T1 programme and will attend the Fitness Profiling events which will help keep me on course with my fitness, which is paramount. I’ll then look to find out what other support is available - we are only just getting to grips with how the next steps work what with changing to a different boat. It’s like starting all over again!

"Dorchester Sailing Club has always been immensely supportive right from the start; friendly members to sail with or letting me have a go in their boats as well as good friends of my own age with the same interest making it socially a great place to be. Barry Graham, Training Principal has always been very supportive and encouraging, helping with words of advice, enthusiasm and practical support with fixing things too.

"ODSSA were also very supportive too, lending me a Topper when I was just staring out and investing in a good kicker for it. This organisation has now morphed into OSST (Oxford Sail Training Trust which is an RYA accredited sailing school) and they have continued to support me."

Find out more about RYA OnBoard and the John Merricks Sailing Trust.