Revealed: who are this year's Panerai Challenger Trophy finalists?

22 Jul 20

We are super excited to reveal that Ben Tylecote (Rutland SC), Nieve Ball (Burton SC) and George Ford (Walton and Frinton YC) are the finalists for the 2020 Panerai Challenger Trophy!

Now in its third year, the Panerai Challenger Trophy recognises outstanding individuals who have embraced the power of sailing or windsurfing to achieve a personal triumph that inspires us all. It also recognises and rewards the OnBoard clubs or centres which have made this possible.

No fewer than 31nominations were received from OnBoard clubs and centres sharing the incredible achievements of their young sailors, and outlining how winning the award would help the sailor continue their development and enable the club/centre invest in supporting other young sailors to thrive on the water.

As finalists, Ben, Nieve and George will all receive £2,500 to further their understanding, enjoyment or participation in sailing, each along with £5,000 to further the OnBoard aims and work of their clubs.

But, on Friday 30 October, one of these inspiring young people will be revealed as the overall Panerai Challenge Trophy winner for 2020 and be awarded £5,000 for their own sailing and £10,000 for their clubs.

So let's meet them...


Last October Ben Tylecote led the team that won the RYA Eric Twiname National Team Racing Championships. This isn't a surprise for a talented young racer who grew up on the water at Rutland SC.

But for 15-year-old Ben, that triumph marked the latest in a four-year period in which his world turned upside down. Aged 12, Ben was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer in the muscle behind the eye. Gruelling treatment and subsequent surgeries followed, including Ben having his eye removed.

Sailing was Ben's salvation, giving him an escape, independence and a social life. As a skilled sailor he could compete well despite not being at full strength and fitness, giving him a crucial boost of confidence and positivity. When he wasn't feeling so good he drove the RIB. Being on the water and the social support Rutland gave him and his family were priceless. 

Ben returned to competition at the 2018 RS Games, months after finishing treatment. Despite exhaustion, he was not deterred and continued building his strength back up, sailing every weekend, helping coach the juniors and competing when he could. Now he's excited about developing his trapeze crewing skills and is thrilled Rutland can invest in some double-handers so other young sailors can enjoy the friendships he has.

What they said...

Ben's mum, Fiona: “Sailing has given Ben independence, competition, friendship, confidence and support. It's an amazing sport. The truth is, without sailing and the support of the sailing community I don’t think we’d have got through the last few years as well as we have.” 


When George's grandparents moved to Frinton 10 years ago it open up a world he never imagined. After his mum found a sailing course for her sons to do during the summer holidays, George was hooked. With his grandad taking him along, George kept sailing through OnBoard and achieved his RYA Stage 2, 3 and 4. 

Sadly three years ago, George's mum was diagnosed with cancer and passed away last summer. Sailing has helped the 14-year-old in the grieving process. Particularly with the support of Chief Instructor, Heidi Wright, George continued to get on the water, even if sometimes he just sat in a safety boat when he felt down.

Mature for his age, the club harnessed his love of sailing and caring nature by inviting him to start assisting with the club's OnBoard sessions. He successfully successfully achieved his Seamanship Skills and Assistant Instructor certificates and is now a valued member of Heidi's instructor team. He can start his Dinghy Instructor course when he turns 16 next October.

George has grown in independence and now cycles to the club rather than his grandad having to take him along. Sailing has shown George he still has lots to give and achieve in this world. 

What George said...

"I remember telling my mum I wanted to sail every summer I came down here. I used sailing to always remember what she started me off doing and Heidi has been amazing through all of it, she's helped me still develop as a sailor but as a person as well through all of the bad times." 


Nieve is the epitome of 'This Girl Can'. From having no confidence and being quite an introvert, windsurfing has given Nieve something she excels in and which has seen her transform into to a confident engaging young lady who is as passionate about inspiring others to windsurf as she is about being on the water herself. Windsurfing helps gives Nieve the structure she needs and focuses her mind on the tasks ahead.

Now 15, Nieve is an assistant windsurf instructor and regularly helps new members alongside Burton's Chief Windsurf Instructor. She is also junior rep on the sailing committee. As part of her mission to get other young people excited about windsurfing and foiling, last December, Nieve organised a get together for windsurfers from all over the country to come to Burton and try lots of different kit and enjoy a day of informal fun blasting.

Earlier this year Nieve won the 2019 RYA Musto Regional Youth Award for the Midlands, while before lockdown struck she and her windsurfing friends, who call themselves the Gnarly Northeners, were organising a 'have a go' This Girl Can event at Burton to inspire more females to try windsurfing. 

Having started in OnBoard, Nieve has progressed from being selected for RYA Zone Squad and Techno 293 Development Squad. She hopes to compete at the Techno Worlds in Garda in October. 

What Nieve said...

"I'm so pleased and excited to be a finalist and so relieved to be back on the water. We've had some great wind to do all the windsurfing disciplines I enjoy and I've also had time to give back with some instructing for beginners as I am an Assistant Instructor."