Handpicked from a series of nationwide Open Keelboat Training events over the year, a total of 47 sailors were chosen for the three highly-competitive Programme squads – National, Northern and Southern – after undergoing a vigorous three-day selection trial at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy last month.
And having declared the standard of this year’s candidates as the best ever, RYA Racing Services manager David Atkinson proudly unveiled the new Programme squads that will help lead the RYA charge at many major national and international inshore, offshore and match racing events during the next 12 months.
photo Rick Tomlinson
He said: “We have invited 17 new members to join our Northern and Southern squads while nine of last year’s Regional squads have progressed into the elite National Squad.
“The competition for places this year was so strong; these are people who are deeply passionate about sailing as well as being extremely talented. But as always we weren’t simply looking at a sailor’s crude ability rather their attitude, potential and capacity to recognise and make the most of the unique opportunities afforded to them as Programme members.
“We are confident that the squads we have selected for the forthcoming year will not only take full advantage of how the Programme can progress them as complete keelboat sailors but will also do the RYA proud on the international keelboat stage.”
The Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme was launched four years ago to give any sailor aged between 16 and 24 the chance to establish themselves in the world of keelboats whether Junior dinghy champions or experienced yachtspeople.
Those selected for the squads enjoy the benefits of having unparalleled access to specialist RYA keelboat training and coaching, grants, placement on viable keelboat race campaigns and use of the RYA’s own fleet of eight J80s as well as the John Merricks Sailing Trust-loaned Farr 45.
Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme members have taken part in some very high profile campaigns since its inception. Inaugural squad member David Carr has competed in the America’s Cup and as is part of Britain’s 2009 America’s Cup Team Origin challenge, and a Programme team also battled against the elements in this year’s torrid Rolex Fastnet Race.
Last August, eight members of the National and Regional squads, with the support of National Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme Manager Nigel King and Programme mentors Ed Hill and Rob Hoey, successfully planned and completed the 1,760-mile Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race.
Among the current squad members that took part were Nick Cherry, Nicky Macgregor, Jez Fowke and Connor Myant as well as newly-appointed Programme Mentor Jamie Holmes, a member of last year’s National Squad.
VOLVO RYA KEELBOAT PROGRAMME SQUAD 2007-08:
Female National Squad
Bethan Carden – South Wales
Lauren Martel – Bangor, Northern Ireland
Nicky Macgregor – Poole, Dorset
Female Southern Squad
Catherine Alton – Birmingham
Colette Blair – Gillingham, Kent
Hannah Kemlo – Lymington, Hampshire
Charlotte Savage - Birmingham
Maia Walsh – Edgbaston, Birmingham
Sally Olsen - Southampton, Hampshire
Sam Brearey - Essex
Female Northern Squad
Sophie Esson – Glasgow, Scotland
Charlotte Lawrence – Edinburgh, Scotland
Nikki Sharp - Manchester
Anna MacKenzie, Birmingham
Bex Partridge - Plymouth, Devon
Kate MacKenzie - Edinburgh
David Carr – Chichester, West Sussex
Andy Clark, Warsash, Hampshire
Ben Field - Southampton, Hampshire
Scott Gray – Edinburgh, Southampton
Ed Hill - Guildford
Rob Hoey - Newton Abbot, Devon
Sam Carter – Ipswich, Suffolk
Gemma Farrell – Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire
John Gimson - Leicester
Jamie Holmes - Bath
Rachel Howe – High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Jo Ryley – Lymington, Hampshire
Angus Stevenson – Glasgow, Scotland