Last Tuesday (17 July), Panerai and the RYA were delighted to announce that the winner of the inaugural Panerai Challenger Trophy was 18-year-old Nicola Stockdale, who sails at the Debdale Outdoor Centre in Manchester.

The Panerai Challenger Trophy was created by the Italian high-end watchmaker Panerai together with the RYA’s OnBoard programme and is designed to promote the power of sailing in positively impacting young people’s lives.

RYA OnBoard sailing clubs and training centres across England were encouraged to nominate a young sailor who has overcome physical, economic or social challenges to achieve a significant milestone in sailing or windsurfing.

Of the 40 entries received, Nicola Stockdale stood out to the judges as the winner. Nicola volunteers every Saturday morning at Debdale Outdoor Centre in Manchester and over the last two years has devoted more than 500 hours, even winning the Manchester Sports Young Volunteer of the Year Award. She works with younger children, encouraging them to take up mentoring roles, and she has now acquired an RYA Dinghy Instructor qualification, while also juggling her A-Level studies.

“I’m completely shocked to have won. There are three other people here who all could have easily taken home the award” said Nicola.

“Getting to know the finalists over the past few weeks has been brilliant and hearing about what they’ve all achieved with their sailing and windsurfing- it’s been so inspiring for me to keep doing what I’m doing because it means even more kids will be able to get going in sailing”.

Nicola and the three runners-up were celebrated during the first of what will be an annual awards dinner at the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron.

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The other three finalists of the Panerai Challenger Trophy were:

  • Bea Sparks, Llangorse Sailing Club
  • Daniel O’Connor, The Chase Sailing Club
  • Ciaran Handforth, Somerset Youth and Community Sailing Association

RYA Chief Executive, Sarah Treseder said: “We are delighted to award the Trophy to a wonderful person like Nicola. She has demonstrated incredible resilience though hard times in her personal life and has embraced the power of the sailing community to overcome the challenges life presented to her. More than that, she is now inspiring others in their life journey, too. We feel honoured to team up with Panerai in this initiative to support the future generations of the sport. “

At the end of the evening, Nicola was presented with the Panerai Challenger Trophy, created by acclaimed designer Russell Pinch, whose work is known for its celebration of simplicity of form, the purity of its uncluttered elegance and its emotional connection with the elements around us.

As part of the prize, Panerai will provide Nicola and her sailing club with funding, demonstrating Panerai’s ongoing support towards the social and inclusive spirit of local sailing and windsurfing clubs. Nicola will receive £5,000 to support her sailing ambitions and her club, Debdale Outdoor Centre, will receive a fund of £10,000.

The three runners-up will receive £2,500 each, and their clubs will each receive £5,000.

During this 3-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 of sailors.

OnBoard works to make sure any youngster who wants to give sailing or windsurfing a go, regardless of their age, ability or background, can. Kids can get afloat for as little as a fiver at OnBoard clubs and they use the club’s boats and boards.

Over a ten year period the programme has introduced more than 500,000 children to the sport, converting over 10% of them into regular participants.

For more information about RYA OnBoard visit www.rya.org.uk/go/onboard