Diary of a bursary winner - or how to progress your sailing

Bursary winner Lara Dyer shares with us her sailing diary showing how she achieved her sailing goal this year.
19 Sep 23
Laura Dyer LSE YTF bursary 739x432

We recently reported how several young sailors in our region had used bursaries from the RYA London and South East Youth Training Fund to progress their sailing and coaching this year. Now one of the group, Lara Dyer, shares her sailing diary and tells how she is “living the best life”. Lara is in the photo above with Simon Cory, Commodore of Downs SC who supported Lara for much of her development training this year.

Lara writes:

I have spent a lot of time this year – most weekends - sailing in Essex and Kent alternating between Topper and Feva sailing. Having been awarded a bursary to enhance my sailing abilities and opportunities, I put the money to good use attending training sessions and regattas. My goal was to attend the National Schools Sailing Association (NSSA) Youth Regatta at Draycote Water in July.

28 January – Kent Schools Sailing Association (KSSA) Autumn 1 Training at Bough Beech

Not a good start – no wind – no sailing. Therefore today was about theory. What did I learn? Boat maintenance is really important. Sanding down the boat and the spars helps clean it up both for aesthetics and a smoother sail. Also squeeze, ease squeeze when performing a rolling tack and some race rules.

4 March – KSSA Training at St Andrew’s Lake

It was cold with 8mph northerly winds. Today I practiced how to stop at the race line and make it a good start.

18 March – Training at Hythe

......was cancelled due to the winds

8 May – All Girls Coaching at Downs SC

Instruction for today was about how to use tell tales, how to go more upwind and when and how to use a spinnaker. Having a new crew – Issi, who is also as enthusiastic was really exciting

14 May – Downs SC Open

The winds today were not favourable but the experience was good to prepare us for the NSSA where there will be bigger fleets than we are used to.

27 May – Training at Downs SC

Today disaster struck when we turtled the boat and the mast got stuck on the sea bed, breaking it just above the shrouds and tearing the sail. It didn’t stop the training though and using a borrowed rig we continued with communication and tacking round buoys using the correct positioning. Thankfully we managed to secure a new mast and sail through insurance and my parents then decided to buy a new jib to complete the set.

24 June – Training at Downs SC

Today we had some great spinnaker training and I learnt how to use a more effective tacking technique.

1 and 2 July – KSSA Medway Summer Regatta

Two days of more spinnaker instruction and practising to try and perfect the new tacking technique. Some race practice – hovering and making good starts. We have one more full day of instruction at Downs SC before heading to Draycote Water to enter the NSSA as part of the Kent Team.

15 July – Training at Downs SC

Unfortunately due to bad weather it was necessary to cancel the last training session.

24 July - We made it – NSSA Youth Regatta at Draycote Water.

Tent pitched, excited and slightly nervous for the14 races over four days.

We started the week with some low finishes – lack of experience mostly to blame. However, the Kent team gurus helped to rig the boat to its optimum and we had some really helpful instruction every day, where we discussed, amongst other things, what went well, what we did wrong, what we could do better, how to use the spinnaker more effectively and how to take the marks correctly.

On Day 3 I got invited to crew a firefly in the Mount Haes cup. This was an incredible experience – new boat and a new helm. We managed to get through our heat in first place, we placed third in the semi-final, and due to a problem with the jib we finished fifth in the final.

Day 4 we had a nightmare morning – we overpowered with the spinnaker and turtled the boat twice. Another opportunity for learning as we tried to right the boat facing into the wind instead of having our backs to the wind. We finished the race but returned for lunch quite despondent. This was soon turned around and in the afternoon we managed a first and fourth place, followed by a fifth and second on the last morning.

Our place in the slow handicap fleet overall was seventh out of 24 boats – we were very happy with this result.

The week was not all about sailing though. I made friends, I learned some resilience and most of all I was living my best life.

I am incredibly grateful to have received this bursary. With sailing there is always something new to learn or practice and the more I have learned and progressed, the more passion and enjoyment I have found for the sport.

From the Youth Training Fund

Dave Ellis, Chairman of the Youth Training Fund, says: “It’s fantastic for young sailors to be able to experience a range of opportunities, both in the UK and internationally, during their development as they learn so much. But the costs of travel, accommodation, food etc. all quickly mount up and the bursaries provide some assistance to our young sailors as they develop their sailing careers.

“We have an abundance of talent in the region and we want to give our young sailors, whether destined for ‘podiums’ or as coaches, the best chance to realise their ambitions.”

Find out more about RYA’s London and South East Youth Training Fund bursaries