Nine teenagers flew the Northamptonshire flag as the county took its biggest team for five years to the National School Sailing Association (NSSA) National Youth Regatta at Datchet Water Sailing Club last week (22-28 July).

Laurence Barnes, Daniel O’Toole and Fred Taylor (Banbury SC), Felix McMullan, Finlay Scull, Damian Mercer and Daniel Hedgecock (Hollowell SC), Charlie Sleet (Cransley SC) plus teammate, Hector Mellor (Carsington SC), were amongst over 285 youngsters who competed at what is one of the UK’s largest dinghy sailing regattas.

And three of the Northants team - Finn, Laurence, and Charlie – will now join 15 other young sailors from across the country for a week of coaching and race training at the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, at the London 2012 sailing venue in Weymouth, after each receiving special High Flyers awards. The NSSA awards places on this trip to youngsters they believe have the potential to sail at a higher level.

The team formed after Banbury SC, on Boddington Reservoir, successfully hosted the NSSA Single Handed Team Racing Championships last October, sparking a number of the Northants youngsters to want to keep training and racing together over the winter and into this season.

Now they want to build on that momentum by introducing a new county training weekends initiative so more young sailors from around Northants get the opportunity to enjoy different sailing experiences with different coaches by training and competing together at all the different clubs in the county.

Banbury’s Emily Castle, Northants’ team leader at Datchet, explained: “The NSSA regattas bring together sailors from different clubs to represent their county at a large-scale national event. We’re trying to take that a step further by saying ‘let’s not just do this for these events but work together all year round’.

“It shows what clubs can achieve when we collaborate. The kids have enjoyed meeting sailors from other local clubs and testing themselves against them. It gives them a different challenge, the chance to experience different types of sailing waters and conditions and exposure to different coaches, all of which makes for a more rounded sailing education and a greater sense of being part of a team.”

All of Northants’ RYA Affiliated sailing clubs are recognised RYA Training Centres, meaning they conform to the highest standards of quality and safety.

The county’s thriving P&B Northamptonshire Youth Series, which takes place at Northampton SC, Banbury SC, Hollowell SC and Cransley SC each summer, provides the chance for youngsters of all abilities, whether new to the sport or more experienced in racing, to get together regularly to compete and receive coaching.

The new training weekends will move around the county, and sailors from any Northants club, particularly those competing at the P&B Series, can get involved to continue sailing as part of a wider county set-up into this winter and beyond.

Emily added: “With clubs taking it in turns to host the training, it eases the volunteer burden of resourcing coaches and safety boat drivers every week, while the sailors enjoy the variety of not sailing with the same people on the same water.

“It also means they can try things they might not have had the chance to do at their home clubs, for example, Hollowell SC has a fleet of double-handed boats so the kids can try sailing as pairs and learning how to crew, which is skill in its own right.”