About RYA Volvo Youth & Junior Racing Programmes
Delevoping sailors of the appropriate age and ability to win medals at major international regattas at Youth then Olympic level.
Over the past decade the RYA's Junior and Volvo Youth Racing programmes have underpinned the success of Great Britian establishing itself as the World's leading sailing nation at the past three Olympic Games.
It wasn't just Britain's Olympians that rewrote the history books in 2008 as the country's Youth and Junior racers also enjoyed their best ever year.
Two golds and a bronze at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championships in Denmark saw Britain land the Vovlo Trophy as the top performing nation while young Brits amassed 29 class World and European medals in total across both the Youth and Junior programmes.
However emulating previous success is a constant challenge both in terms of making sure the right opportunities are offered to those sailors coming out the top of the Volvo Youth Programme while at the same time ensuring the next generation of hopefuls are carefully fed into the system from the grassroots.
Progressing through the Squad Programmes
For sailors keen to progress through the various Volvo Youth and Junior squad programmes all the way to the highest level it is vitally important they move to the next squad along the pathway at the right time. This will enable sailors to take on board the appropriate skills at the right time yet still leave themselves enough time to both master the next class and be successful in the racing arena.
To do this sailors and their parents need to bear in mind the big picture and not get sidetracked into making decisions that will hamper the sailor at the next level. There are many cases of sailors who have stayed too long in a particular squad or class.
Whilst this has helped them to do well in that class, often by being bigger or older, the result has been to reduce the amount of time they have had available to them in the next class. Other sailors, often in their peer group, who have moved on at the right time, have therefore had more time to get to grips with the next class and deliver results. Sailors staying on too long in the previous class often find it very hard to close this gap again before being out of youth age.
The last year that sailors can benefit from the Volvo Youth Programme is the year in which they are 18. At the planning stage it is often easier for sailors to start counting back from there, making sure they have put in enough time to be successful at each level, from zone squads, through Junior and Volvo Youth squads and then on in to the next level of racing.
This also applies to sailors coming into the sport at a slightly older age, or for sailors who develop slightly later on. Such sailors can still access the programmes and be successful, as long as they make sure they step into the right class for their age just as soon as they can manage it.
There are many different pathways through the programmes and sailors have made it through to the highest level by taking a wide variety of routes.
Some have even missed out entire stages, others have only joined the programmes at the senior level. Nevertheless, sailors wanting to make the most of the opportunities available within each squad programme should try to stick to the pathway that will give them the best chance of being successful in the long term, if that is indeed their goal.
It is important to bear in mind some of the differences between single-handers and double-handers, between preferred routes for girls and boys, and between dinghy and windsurfing routes.
For example, whilst singlehanded girls only have one class to master at Youth level (Radial), boys have to fit in two (Radial and Laser Standard) and so need to leave themselves enough time to do so.
Furthermore, many sailors find the double-handers much more challenging technically than some of the single-handers or Junior classes and therefore benefit from leaving themselves a little more time to get to grips with this new dynamic in their sailing.
It is also important to consider the different roles in the boat crew and helm. - currently there are fewer talented crews available in comparison to helms.
All sailors should seriously consider the role of the crew in planning their sailing. The two roles are of equal importance and responsibility yet demand very different sets of physical and technical skills, especially from youth level and onwards. Sailors should consider the skills they possess carefully and make a move to the front of the boat if that is appropriate for them.
The RYA is always keen to help sailors develop into world class crews and is working on programmes with this specific aim.