A promising young Blithfield SC sailor has been revealed as the winner of the 2019 RYA Regional Youth Champion Award for the Midlands.

Lydia Barber, 17, is one of 11 young talents from across the UK who will receive their awards from double Olympic silver medallist and RYA Director of Racing, Ian Walker, at the RYA Dinghy Show in London this Sunday (3 March).

Launched in 2014, the RYA Regional Youth Champion Awards recognise the outstanding dedication, achievement and performance of talented young people in sailing, windsurfing and powerboating.

Lydia, who lives in Stanley, has been sailing for less than two years, but has shown exceptional enthusiasm and dedication, self-funding most of her equipment through a part-time job.The Newcastle College student has no family background in sailing and first got afloat after being offered a taster sail at North Staffs Sailing Club when she was out walking around Stanley Pool near her home one day.

After a summer of learning the ropes on her home patch, in late 2017 she moved to Blithfield Sailing Club, near Abbots Bromley, to develop her racing skills. She has continued to make rapid progress, taking part in Blithfield club racing every weekend, as well as competing at other local sailing clubs, in the popular Derbyshire Youth Sailing series and on Laser Radial class circuit.

Lydia admits she was very surprised when she heard she had won the award. “I knew I’d been nominated,” she reveals, “But I never expected anything to come of it, I haven’t been sailing for that long, so it's nice to know all the practice is working!

"At the time I found sailing I was struggling with the pressures of GCSEs and sailing allowed me to relax and rejuvenate after a tough five days in school. It played a big part in me being able to do well in my exams as it gave me the relief at the weekend to continue working hard in the week.

"I love sailing because of the feeling you get when the boat goes fast; it’s like flying and it's so empowering to harness one of the natural elements and turn it into speed. What I love about the Laser Radial especially is it's a one-design class, so the results show the skill of the sailor, not the kit money can buy. This is a great thing for someone with limited funds like myself. I can’t wait to see what the future brings."

 
As well as sailing her Laser Radial, Lydia also enjoys sailing double-handers and documents all her sailing exploits on her blog Lydia Sailing. She was nominated for the award by both her club and her mum, with Blithfield Sailing Secretary, Vanessa Pascheke, describing Lydia as a role model to many people at the club.

Lydia added: “I've been lucky enough to make some great friends and have kept practicing and wanting to do well. My parents don't sail so the help I received from North Staffs and Blithfield has been amazing, I’ve learnt everything I have from both clubs and I’m extremely thankful for that."

Alistair Dickson, RYA Director of Sport Development, said: “We’re delighted to recognise the achievements of Lydia and all the individuals who have shown lots of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. It’s fantastic to see so many young role models and true ambassadors for the sport.”

Fancy getting afloat this year? You can! Find your local sailing club at www.rya.org.uk/Pages/wheres-my-nearest.aspx while for more information about the RYA Regional Youth Champion Awards visit www.rya.org.uk/go/youthchampion