Two youngsters whose love of
sailing has helped them to overcome significant challenges in their lives have
been shortlisted for a prestigious national award. Matthew Gilbert (14) from
Bridgwater in Somerset and Bradley Pedrick (11) from St Austell, Cornwall, are
two of just four finalists from across the UK, in the Panerai Challenger Trophy,
which includes a substantial financial award.
The Panerai Challenger Trophy is an initiative from Italian luxury
watchmaker Panerai and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA). It recognises an outstanding
young person between the ages of 8 – 18 years who has embraced the power of
sailing or windsurfing to achieve a personal triumph to inspire us all. The
finalists have all overcome physical, economic or social challenges to achieve
a significant milestone within sailing or windsurfing.
The four young sailors, along with
their families, will experience sailing on the River Thames on board Panerai’s
very own classic yacht, ‘Eilean’, before the trophy presentation on 22 June.
The winner will receive a grant of £5,000 to continue their development in
sailing, windsurfing or more broadly within the marine industry. Their sailing club
or training centre will also receive a grant of up to £10,000 to purchase new
equipment that further supports junior sailors or windsurfers. The three
runners up will receive £2,500 each and their clubs £5,000 each.
Matthew is one of four siblings in
a family that contends daily with huge challenges. His young sister, Tayen, has
very complex medical needs due to a genetic condition that he himself also has,
and he additionally deals with ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia. He started sailing
two years ago with his father and his twin brothers at Somerset Youth and
Community Sailing Association (SYCSA), the organisation that has nominated him
for the award. He has persevered with his weekly sailing sessions to become a
competent dinghy sailor who is thriving with the personal success he is
achieving. Having developed his physical co-ordination, mental coolness and
sailing ability, he is now able to offer advice to new young sailors and has
made strong friendships at SYCSA.
Matthew’s mum, Kali, is delighted
for him – and his brothers: “He was really shocked, surprised, happy and
excited when he found out he was a finalist. We hadn’t told him that he had
been nominated by SYCSA, but we were very chuffed about what people thought of
him, and very proud that his 12-year-old twin brothers were also listed in the
“Winning a grant would be a massive
boost for Matthew’s confidence and mental wellbeing – a lot revolves around
Tayen, so this being about him would be huge. He wants to do courses and buy
kit and boats – he talks about it every day, so it’s a massive deal for him,
because being on the water is somewhere he feels calm and free.”
Brad started sailing at Polkerris
Beach, the training centre that has nominated him for the award, just a year
ago with his school, and has thrown himself into the sport, despite having a
lot to contend with. As a three-year-old, he had his leg amputated below the
knee due to a rare condition; at just seven, he had to have kidney surgery and
then, shortly afterwards, he suffered serious burns in an accident. In
addition, he has undergone revision surgeries on his leg, which will continue
until he is fully grown. He has nevertheless learned not just to sail, but to
put on a wetsuit over his prosthetic leg, carry his own kit down the beach and
work with, and help, others.
According to Brad’s mum, Cheryl,
sailing has given him focus, and much more: “He’s the kind of boy who wants to
be active all the time and he has lots of energy. He just gets on with it –
he’s amazing how he adapts to things and has a positive attitude to everything.
It’s given him a huge focus and it’s helped him to be calm and focused in
school too, knowing that he has sailing to look forward to.”
Winning a grant will mean a huge
amount to Brad. It will enable him to have one-to-one sailing sessions, which
combined with his regular attendance at his sailing club, will help him to build
on his passion for sailing and develop his talent.
Cheryl said: “He is bouncing
off the walls knowing that he’s going to London for the trophy presentation. As
I’m a single mum and he has five siblings, the trip will be a rare chance for
him to have individual time with me, as well as enjoying an extremely exciting
Now in the second year of the award,
Panerai has commissioned the acclaimed Simon Hasan to design and produce the
trophy, which has, once again, been inspired by the craft of classic boat
building and Panerai’s Eilean, built in the famous Scottish boatyard Fife in
1936. Given his innovative use of materials, embracing both ancient craft and
industrial processes, he was a natural fit to the task.
Over three years, Panerai has
committed to donate £120,000 towards the initiative to demonstrate the sport’s
accessibility and inspire the next generation of sailors.
The brand, known for its
relationship to watersports, has recently unveiled their sponsorship of
America’s Cup Challenger, Luna Rossa.
Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO of Panerai,
who has overseen the launch of these projects, commented: “Sailing can unite
communities across the world, and we are delighted to partner with the RYA to
support young talent for a second year running. Panerai continues its quest to
strengthen the links with the sea and community initiatives to nurture this
journey into the future.”
RYA Chief Executive, Sarah Treseder
said: “We are very pleased to receive so many fantastic applications in the
second year of the partnership. Each story speaks of perseverance and hardship,
but also of hope and happiness. It was extremely challenging to select the
finalist but we now have four amazing stories which will inspire more young
people to harness the positive benefits that watersports can bring to a young
person’s life and we thank Panerai for making this possible.”
Sarah added: “Created together with
the RYA’s OnBoard programme, this joint initiative with Panerai, is designed to
promote the many positive benefits which getting out onto the water can bring
to young people’s lives. We are thrilled that this year, we have once again
heard from so many inspiring youngsters and their stories of overcoming
adversity, plus the positive benefits which this has brought to themselves,
their families and their sailing communities.”
Run by the RYA, OnBoard is a grass roots programme which introduces
sailing and windsurfing to young people aged 8 to 18, through schools, youth
groups and training centres. The low cost sessions are designed to promote equal access to sailing
for young people from all social and economic backgrounds, whilst encouraging
their character development.
Since 2005, OnBoard has introduced more than 900,000 children to sailing and windsurfing in the UK,
converting some 70,000 of them into regular participants.
For more information about how to get involved in sailing visit www.rya.org.uk/go/onboard.