On Tuesday 17 July, four OnBoarders gathered excitedly in Cowes for a day of classic yacht sailing and a presentation dinner to discover who would be named the winner of the inaugural Panerai Challenger Trophy.

Ultimately, Nicola Stockdale was crowned the overall winner in recognition of her volunteer efforts at Debdale Outdoor Activity Club. But with big prizes for all the finalists and their clubs/organisations, the Panerai Challenger Trophy, which was created by the Italian high-end watchmaker Panerai together with OnBoard, is already changing the lives of the successful quartet.

The Panerai Challenger Trophy was designed to promote the power of sailing in positively impacting young people's lives. To have been nominated, sailors must have overcome significant physical, economic or social challenges to achieve something notable within sailing and/or windsurfing, still be active in the sport and have been involved in OnBoard for at least a year in the past two years. 

Nicola received £5,000 to support her sailing ambitions and, Debdale Outdoor Centre, received a fund of £10,000.The three runners-up received £2,500 each, and their clubs £5,000.

During the three-year initiative, Panerai has committed to making a total investment of £120,000 to demonstrate the sport's accessibility and to inspire the next generation. This is what the Panerai funding has enabled the OnBoarders and their clubs/organisation to invest in since July.

 Dan O'Connor  A new Topper The Chase Sailing Club   Four RS Quba training boats
 Bea Sparks A new Optimist  Llangorse Sailing Club  Engines for safety boats to support training 
 Ciaran Handforth Gill clothing, RYA courses and participation in Tall Ships week   Somerset Youth and Community Sailing Association (SYCSA)  Two XL RS Fevas for training
 Nicola Stockdale (Overall winner) Gill clothing / TBC  Debdale Outdoor Activity Club   Two Toppers and nine windsurf rigs

With nominations for the 2019 Panerai Challenger Trophy open on Monday 4 March, hopefully these stories will inspire you to nominate a sailor next year?

"I felt more confident because it belonged to me"

Dan O'Connor has been putting his new Topper through its paces in club racing and local regattas while he and his family returned to the Isle of Wight in October on the invitation of Royal Yacht Squadron Commodore, T J R Sheldon Esq, who hosted July's Trophy presentation dinner. This is what Dan had to say.

"It took us a while to set the boat up, putting the ropes and numbers in the correct places, but once it was in the water I was happy and excited, it was strange, I felt more confident because it belonged to me. It feels very different from the club boats I've been sailing because it's set up for racing. 

"I feel more confident racing it and once I get use to it I will know where everything is without looking and can set it up to fit me. I think having my own boat will help me become more confident and to focus outside of sailing too. I sometimes struggle winning more than one race in a day because I lose focus.

"It was very kind of Mr Sheldon to invites us back to the Isle of Wight, to stay in one of his holiday homes and do a bit sailing on the estuary that runs through his land. He had several Picos and kayaks we were able to use and even though it was October the water was very calm. We got out on the water almost everyday, sometimes in the kayaks when there was no wind.

"I hope to take part in lots of the The Chase club races over the winter, definitely on Boxing Day, and next season I'd like to do more races, maybe in different places, and learn to sail on the sea. I've also joined the Sea Cadets and will be racing for my squadron." 

"Wow what a year!"

Big boats are Ciaran Handforth's passion and in October he joined Panerai winner, Nicola Stockdale, for four days on the Solent with the Tall Ships Youth Trust, completing his RYA Start Sailing qualification. He's also got RYA Stage 4 and his Seamanship qualification in dinghy sailing and will complete his powerboat certificate next spring. This is what Ciaran had to say.

"The award has really enabled me to gain experiences at a quicker rate than would have been possible before. I like the big boat stuff because voyages are over a distance and days away means meeting new people and learning new skills. I still love dinghy sailing though, which has given me the tools to crossover and progress.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the Tall Ships experience and particularly enjoyed helming out of Poole. Next summer I'm signed up with Ocean Youth Trust Scotland, sailing from the Kyle of Lochaish to Oban on a Competent Crew course. Perhaps I'll squeeze something in at Easter too! 

"Progression through RYA qualifications could be my University. I'm not sure about career direction yet, that will develop later and may involve boat building of some sort, but I am aware of the opportunities open to me.

"I've met some terrific people in my early sailing life, all of whom have helped in a major way, from the marvellous sailing members at Somerset Youth and Community Sailing Association to the people at the RYA and Panerai and Tall Ships."