Outstanding youngster George Gillingham has been awarded the RYA Yachtmaster™ of the Year 2014 for his exceptional demonstration of sailing skills, having successfully passed his RYA Yachtmaster™ certificate of competence exam just a few weeks after his 18th birthday.  

George, from Poole in Dorset, was presented with the prestigious trophy by HRH The Princess Royal today [14 January 2015] at the CWM FX London Boat Show at ExCeL London.  

Award criteria

The winner of the prestigious annual award must possess outstanding skills and knowledge as a skipper and will have demonstrated their expertise and experience during their exam.  

From the age of four, George Gillingham sailed regularly with his godfather, Captain Paul Chapman, in Poole Harbour.  He took his RYA dinghy sailing courses at the age of nine, with Rockley Watersports, before joining the sailing club at his school and regularly sailing in local waters.  

George joined Parkstone Yacht Club six years ago and took the opportunity to take his RYA Powerboat Level 2 and VHF courses and raced Toppers and Lasers at weekends. Having been introduced to yacht racing aged 15, he took part in the Commodores' Challenge youth match racing event on a 33ft Elan and undertook regular evening cruiser racing and weekend regattas.  

Results driven

At just 16 years old, George completed his RYA Day Skipper. Joining Poole Yacht Club, he began to compete in long distance races under the auspices of the Poole Yacht Racing Association.  Recent successes include: 4th in class in the 2014 J P Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race; 2nd in class at Cowes Week; and being part of Jim Macgregor's team on 'Premier Flair' for the last days of the IRC Nationals winning the Class 2 National Champion title.  

In 2013, George qualified as an RYA Jet-ski Instructor and spent the following winter sailing with Hamble School of Yachting to gain sea miles and to build on techniques in order to achieve his RYA Coastal Skipper.  He then had to wait until he was 18 to be eligible to sit his RYA Yachtmaster™ Offshore exam, which he successfully passed in July 2014.  

Inspiration

Speaking after the presentation on the RYA Stand [D016], George said: "Today has been a very proud day for me and it's been great to have the support of my friends and family here. My Dad flew in from America to be here for the award presentation, which shows just how much it means to us all. Awards like the RYA Yachtmaster of the Year are a really important means of inspiring people to get involved in sailing and achieve their own Yachtmaster qualification."  

Despite feeling nervous prior to the presentation, young George added: "Princess Anne is a lovely lady; she took the time to find out about my sailing experience and plans for the future. It really was a great experience that I'll never forget."

Keen to use his new qualifications, George flew to the Mediterranean just one month later to begin work as deck crew on a motor yacht based in the South of France.  He is responsible for guest safety, watch duties and navigation and is furthering his career by currently studying for the MCA Officer of the Watch.  

A huge honour

RYA Training Manager and Chief Examiner, Richard Falk, today said: "This is a huge honour and one that George should be rightly proud of. There were more than 3,000 people who undertook the RYA Yachtmaster™ certificate of competence exam last year and of those, George was deemed to be the most worthy candidate to receive this award.  

"It's refreshing to have the opportunity to reward the outstanding efforts, achievements and determination of such a young sailor. George stood out from the many candidates as a result of his performance in his RYA Yachtmaster™ exam, in which he demonstrated his remarkable knowledge and skills - as well as his boundless enthusiasm as a skipper."  

Nominations for the highly-respected award were put forward by the RYA's worldwide team of Yachtmaster examiners. George received the RYA Yachtmaster™ trophy, donated by the Royal Institute of Navigation, on the RYA stand [D016], where visitors to the CWM FX London Boat Show can experience a RIB simulator, a knot wall challenge and the chance to come face to face with some non-native 'alien' species!   

To find out how you can learn how to sail, visit www.rya.org.uk/coursestraining or come along to the RYA Stand, D016, and find out more.

The RYA Yachtmaster™ qualification itself is highly respected across the globe, and is a great entry ticket to the maritime industry. Click here to find out more about the Yachtmaster™ exam.