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Young Kent sailors have Olympic ambitions

by RYA on 3 Oct 2014
Tom Cunningham RYA
Two young Kent sailors have their eyes on future Olympic success after winning titles at the prestigious RYA Zone Championships last weekend (27-28 September).

Boughton Monchelsea’s Tom Cunningham, 13, claimed the Bic Techno 6.8 windsurfing crown at the RYA East Zone event hosted by Dabchicks Sailing Club and West Mersea Yacht Club in Essex, while 12-year-old Morgan Archer, from Lynsted near Sittingbourne, took Topper one-person dinghy glory at the RYA South East Zone event at Bewl Valley Sailing Club.

These were amongst nine RYA Zone Championship events taking place nationwide with more than 1,000 of the nation’s brightest young talents hitting the water across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Championships traditionally mark the end of the Junior racing season and are a key event for any young sailor wishing to be selected for the RYA Zone and Home Country squads, which are the first step on the pathway to Olympic Classes sailing.

In light, fickle breezes on the East coast on Saturday, the windsurfers were the only class to see some action at Dabchicks and Tom wasted little time stamping his intentions on the event, picking up two wins and a second from his opening three races, before slightly more wind arrived on Sunday for the Maidstone Grammar School pupil to clinch a further three victories and two seconds to land the top prize.

The sailors at Bewl Valley had to wait a bit longer to enjoy some racing, Saturday’s lack of breeze leaving the sailors sat ashore all day. However when they did get afloat on Sunday, St Mary’s Island School boy Morgan scored two, one, three from their three races to win the event ahead of Surrey rival Daniel Thompson.

Now both boys have their eyes firmly on the future.

Tom said: 'Being part of the Zone Squad this year really helped with my ability to get around the racecourse as fast as possible, using different pumping techniques and tactics. Easter Camp at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, where the London 2012 sailing events were held, was especially helpful because of the intensive training at a great venue.

'When I'm not attending Zone or UKWA events I train at Bewl Water most weekends, practicing going around a course I set myself and doing lots of tacks and gybes. Over the next 12 months I want to improve my light wind racing and my strong wind carve gybes. I want to progress to the Techno 7.8 class and achieve a top 10 finish at the Nationals.

'I would like to progress up to RS:X Olympic class and follow the RYA training pathway as far as possible, even as far as going to the Olympics. But if this doesn't work out I'll always love just going windsurfing with my mates.'

Blue Circle SC’s Morgan has similar aspirations. He said: 'Being in the South East Zone Squad has helped point out big errors I was making and taught me new things I didn’t know. Also I learned the rules in more depth, all of which has made me confident and successful.

'I train as often as I can at any venue that is available, normally organised by the International Topper Class Association (ITCA) or the Kent Schools’ Sailing Association (KSSA), then during the winter I try to find a club offering winter training, which could be in the East or South zones.

'My aims over the next 12 months year are to be in the gold fleet at the Nationals and Worlds and to be selected for the RYA National Junior Squad next year. I would love to be in the Olympics in the future, but in the meantime I enjoy sailing any type of boat or windsurfing.' app (top)