With the continuation of a very successful initiative which commenced in 2012, young sailors who aspire to race one design keelboats at the highest level are being given a unique chance to apply to take custody of a number of fully race prepared Etchells, 30ft keelboats, completely free of charge for most of the 2014 racing season.
This is thanks to the flourishing partnership between the UK Etchells Class and RYA Racing. The objective is to bring two young teams up to the highest level possible with the aim of helping them to maximise their chances of winning the 2014 British Etchells National Championships and The European Championships.
To support the sailors' progression and development, race training and coaching will be provided by the UK Class Associations volunteers, RYA Racing Keelboat Manager Nigel King and Solent supremo's David Bedford and Graham Sunderland. All will support the teams and offer both formal and informal coaching on board the boats and from RIBs.
The 2012's selected crews enjoyed a great season of racing within the fleet. A number of the sailors attended the Italian Nationals and the Europeans both hosted at Rosignano, Italy and the crew of Bleddyn Mon achieved a very respectable second at the 2012 British Etchells National Championships. Many of the 2012 in-take have continued to sail in the class worldwide, including Mark Lees, world number 25th-ranked match racing skipper, who is now a regular sailor in the Etchells fleet. In 2013 Mark sailed aboard Gellert which came sixth at the Worlds, having won two races.
In 2013 both selected teams gained respectable results in the domestic Etchells calendar with Tarra Gill-Taylor and crew coming close to winning Cowes Week, eventually coming third. Etchells Academy sailors won both the European and National Youth Match Racing Championships with Phil Bendon and crew winning the Europeans and Mark Lees, Tarra Gill-Taylor and Matt Wallis claiming the RYA National Youth Match Racing Championship title.
The Etchells is a strict 30ft one design keelboat which, outside of the Olympics, has some of the most competitive racing in the world and winning the Etchells World Championships is regarded as one of the hardest titles to win in sailing. Past World Champions include America's Cup winners Dennis Conner and John Bertrand, Olympic sailor Stuart Childerley and Sir Ben Ainslie, Britain's most successful sailor in Olympic history, has competed at the event as crew.
The UK fleet is very active, highly competitive and welcoming, the class is keen to help develop young sailors and give them the opportunity to learn about keelboats in an exciting and dynamic class.
Thanks to the generosity and support of volunteers within the UK Etchells Class Association up to two selected teams can benefit from the use of their own boat for the season and participate in a full programme of well organised and competitive racing, with entry fees, boat-yard costs and a small maintenance budget all covered by the class. Some assistance towards accommodation may also be provided. Much of this support is made possible by the kind generosity of Ted Fort OBE.
John Derbyshire OBE, RYA Racing Manager and Performance Director, commented: "We are delighted to once again work with the volunteers and owners within the Etchells Class Association to offer this fantastic opportunity, aimed principally at recent graduates of our RYA Youth and Junior Racing and British Keelboat Academy programmes.
"Last year's programme saw a competitive trial and some great opportunities for young sailors to try their hand at keelboat sailing in a really competitive class. It is great that the Etchells class share the RYA's enthusiasm to find rewarding and affordable ways to keep young sailors racing at key life transitions so they can go on to enjoy a lifetime within the sport."
This opportunity is designed to give talented young sailors the experience of top level one design keelboat racing, giving them the resources and training to push their sailing to the highest level.
The opportunity is available for 18-24 year olds, and is particularly aimed at graduating RYA Youth Programme sailors and British Keelboat Academy members although applications from other sailors, including those from clubs and Universities are welcomed. Most of the racing will be in the Solent from Cowes and subsidised accommodation may be provided either at the UKSA or at owners' homes on the island.
Whilst, applications are invited from individuals, those from pre-formed teams of three or four sailors are strongly encouraged (the class maximum weight limit is 285kg so competitive teams will need to be as close as possible to that).
For 2014 up to two teams will be offered the use of fully funded race prepared boats in the Solent for the 2014 racing season leading up to the British Nationals and European Championships which are to be held in Weymouth in September 2014. Full details for the Cowes Etchells Fleet can be found at www.etchellsukfleet.co.uk.
To apply please send a sailing CV and a brief covering email outlining why you should be given the opportunity addressed to Nigel King, RYA Keelboat Manager, sent care of Caroline Sullivan, Keelboat Administrator email@example.com
Interested sailors are invited to discuss the programme with RYA Youth Racing staff at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Sailing Show on the 1st and 2nd of March should they require any further information.
Closing date for applications is 1700 on Monday 3rd March. Successful and unsuccessful applicants will be notified by Friday 7th March. Successful applicants will be expected to attend a selection and training weekend in Cowes on 15th/16th March 2014. Final allocation of places for this scheme will be made following this event by the selection panel.