He was scared of water as a child, but next month he once again heads to the Cadet Worlds in Argentina as two-time national class champion. Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club’s Jamie Harris, 15, is our OnBoard Sailor of the Month!
Hi Jamie, your instructor at BCYC, Karen Turner, told us you were scared of the water when you first went along to OnBoard sessions and, despite having sailed a little bit with your dad, you didn’t actually like sailing! How did that change?
It is honestly hard to remember since I have loved sailing for as long as I can remember now. But I think the whole scenario of being out on the water was just frightening to me and I can’t remember when or how that changed. My parents tell me they could see, that despite my fears, I did have moments when I loved being on the water in the little club Oppie.
Lots of people helped me from my sailing club and I did the OnBoard sessions with my primary school, Axbridge first. I found I knew a bit more than my school friends and that gave me some more confidence. The instructor asked me to help out too, which was good.
So you had a lot of people believe in you, which helped your confidence?
Yes. Lots of people at Bristol Corinthian YC, including Alice, James, Alan and Karen, and my mum and dad too. I also sailed with both sets of grandparents and they just all persisted with me. I guess they could see something I couldn’t see in myself.
To go from that to loving sailing is a big step. How did your OnBoard sessions help?
We played lots of games and dressed as pirates, and it was just great fun. The light winds in the afternoon weren't scary and missing school was a bonus! I started to enjoy being on the water more and more as I associated it with fun not being scary.
When did you start racing?
I was introduced to racing early, crewing for my Dad in a National 12 at BCYC. But it was getting into the South West Zone Squad when I was nine that I started to take racing a bit more seriously.
I hadn’t decided Zones was something I wanted to do, it just sort of happened. Someone in the Zones told a few of us to find out about it and I unexpectedly made SW Zones with one of my clubmates, Ryan Bush. He helped me get better as we raced each other.
What has sailing given you as a sport?
Experiences altogether with my family, especially time with my sister, Bettine, who is two years younger than me. She has followed me through the squad system as a helm. She has also been an epic crew for me in the Cadet at the last Worlds in Garda and in the RS200 at the Endeavour Trophy, where we finished seventh in a fleet including two Olympians and multiple World and National Champions of all ages.
I am doing something I love, I have made many friends and I get to travel around the UK and abroad representing Great Britain. This has really made a huge difference to my confidence, it has helped me develop calmness under pressure and my fitness and has also given me given me respect and some knowledge of the natural environment.
You and Bettine won the 2015 National title together and were first Under 15 at last year’s Cadet Worlds in Garda. This year you are sailing with Toni Wilkinson. What are your hopes for this year’s Worlds?
I just hope to do the best I can and to also enjoy the whole experience.
You’ve started sailing the 420 now. You’ve come a long way from being afraid of the water?
The plan next is to sail the 420 with my new crew, Harry Chatterton, next year and do the RYA Youth Nationals together. It feels like a long time ago since OnBoard, more than half my life ago in fact.
Over to Jamie’s dad, Ian…
The OnBoard scheme and the kindness and patience of a few key members of BCYC were instrumental in developing Jamie’s passion for sailing. That passion has helped Jamie develop into a mature and responsible young man that we are all very proud of. His sister Bettine also sailed in the OnBoard scheme and she too is now excelling in the sport as a former Optimist Zone and current Cadet National squad sailor.
Good luck in Argentina Jamie!