Winner of the RYA North East Youth Champion's crown was 12 year old Ben Russell from Kielder Water Sailing Club.

Ben, who comes from Hexham and attends Hexham Middle School, was joined by other young sailors, windsurfers and powerboaters from across the UK at the presentation ceremony in London. The awards were presented by the British Sailing Team's Dylan Fletcher and recognise the outstanding achievement and performance of young people across the range of activities the RYA represents. 

Ben was chosen for the award by a panel of judges from the RYA North East Region in recognition of his developing talent in the Optimist dinghy class. Currently a member of the RYA North Zone Optimist Squad and unfazed by competition, Ben raced in the 2013 National Optimist Championships at Largs, Scotland, coming 16th overall in his class, including one overall race win.

Second place in the RYA North Zone Optimist Championships at Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club was followed by the Optimist "End of Season Championships" at Rutland Water, where Ben had his first taste of racing in the open fleet against 105 other boats! 

"I am really pleased to have been chosen for the RYA North East Youth Champion Award," said Ben. "This is the first time I have been to the Dinghy Show in London. It was great." 

There is plenty more on the horizon for Ben, who has a full sailing season ahead of him. "I'm hoping to compete in the Optimist Inland Championships in May and then the National Championships in August at Weymouth." 

Ben has all this to look forward to before moving up to Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham in September. A busy year! 

Dylan Fletcher presenting the Youth Champion Awards commented: "It was great to meet everyone and to present these inaugural awards. It's really important to recognise people on every level and these youngsters are all so passionate about their sport and they all put in the extra effort." 

All awards winners were selected by the RYA's 13 regional committees. For more information visit www.rya.org.uk/go/youthchampion