The RYA and Panerai are delighted to announce that the winner of the Panerai Challenger Trophy for 2020 is 16-year-old Ben Tylecote, who sails at Rutland Sailing Club.

The Panerai Challenger Trophy was created by the Florentine luxury 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. The initiative provides grants to young individuals that have overcome physical, economic or social challenges to achieve significant milestones in their sailing or windsurfing.

A keen sailor and active member of Rutland Sailing Club from three years old, Ben was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer when he was 12. Gruelling treatment and surgeries followed including Ben having his eye removed but sailing was his salvation.

Ben’s Club’s Commodore says: “Ben’s sailing skills have given him a crucial boost of confidence and positivity during an otherwise very frightening and debilitating time. We are in awe of his courage and determination. Ben brings huge energy, commitment and a sense of fun to every training session, race and event. He is an inspiration to adults and juniors alike.”

Ben received a grant of £5,000 to continue his development in sailing. Rutland sailing club will also receive a grant of £10,000 to purchase new equipment that further supports junior sailors or windsurfers.

He also received the impressive Challenger Trophy, designed by Bethany Williams, a British designer working primarily with natural, re-useable materials.

The two runners-up - who will also receive £2,500 each along with £5,000 for their clubs of the Panerai Challenger Trophy were:

  • Nieve Ball (Burton sailing club)
  • George Ford (Walton and Frinton yachting club)

You can read more about Nieve and George here.

At the virtual award ceremony, Ben very graciously led a round of applause and congratulated the other finalists adding: “I really wasn’t expecting this. Nieve and George’s stories were so inspirational, well done to them both. I’m really proud to have accomplished this great milestone, thank you all for the support and for making it real.”

RYA Chief Executive, Sarah Treseder said: “Each story speaks of perseverance and hardship, but also of hope and happiness. It was extremely challenging to select the finalist and we hope Ben’s truly inspiring story will help inspire more young people to harness the positive benefits that watersports can bring to a young person’s life.

“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”.

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 third year running. Panerai continues its quest to strengthen the links with the sea and community initiatives to nurture this journey into the future.”

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.