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Inspiring Etchells Youth

by Louay Habib 24 Sep 2022 08:20 PDT 18-24 September 2022

After racing on Friday 23rd September, sailors competing at the Etchells Worlds gathered in Cowes Yacht Haven to hear about the tremendous Etchells Youth Academy programme which has been run by the Cowes Etchells Fleet for nine years.

Matt Hannaby and David Bedford have been heavily involved in the Cowes Etchells Youth Academy and world class sailors, such as Dog Palfrey and Graham Sunderland, have given their time to develop, promote and inspire youth sailors into the UK Etchells fleet.

"We started off with just one youth boat for the Academy, now we have six, and over 700 young sailors have got onto the water with the UK Etchells Fleet," commented UK Etchells Class Captain, David Franks, who is a generous Etchells Youth Academy supporter.

"We have seen youths that have come through the programme come back and helpthe ones that follow. The Etchells Youth Academy is also a pathway into a maritime career. The best example is the Greig City Academy, which is a school in inner London. Sixth Form head teacher Jon Holt has been instrumental in getting pupils out racing, they have done two Fastnet campaigns and some of them have gone on to work in the sailing industry for Alex Thomson Racing and North Sails."

At the 2022 Etchells Worlds Kai, Jaydon and Christopher are racing in a Youth Academy Etchells and their average age is just 17, which is magnificent. We are currently helping to build an academy in Scotland with Colin McDonald from the Clyde Etchells Fleet, which now has a youth boat available. Two of the Clyde Graduates are racing at the Worlds; Thomas Goodman and Gus Beer. The Cowes Etchells Fleet would like to encourage more youth academies around the world; we would be delighted to share our knowledge and help in any way that we can." Commented David Franks.

The youngest team racing is Palaver (GBR 1014) sailed by Kai Hockley (16), Jaydon Owusu (17), and Christopher-Joel Frederick (17), who are all students at the Greig City Academy in Haringey, North London.

"A great opportunity has been given to us," commented Kai Hockley. "To get the boat, the advice, and all the friendly help from all the sailors, is just great, we can't thank everybody enough. The Etchells Class is so competitive; there are amateurs racing against Olympians, but this a one-design class, so the only way to win is to be the best sailors. Our team is getting more experience, and this will help us on the road to hopefully match the best."

The youngest female sailor at the Etchells Worlds is Josie Meredith who is racing with the youth team on Shamal (GBR 927). Josie is 20 and studying Nursing at Southampton University. "I just love the standard of the competition, racing against some of the best sailors in the world is really cool." Commented Josie.

Youth women sailors competing include Celia Willison from Auckland New Zealand, Hannah Peters who works in London and Adele Young from the South Coast UK. Vita Heathcote is tactician on David Franks Strait Dealer (GBR 1431). Vita won the 2019 420 Worlds and aspires to represent Great Britain in the 470 Class at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

"Like the 470, this is a very tight fleet, and there are a lot of scenarios that you can relate with the two, like boat on boat and overall tactics," commented Vita Heathcote. "Every race you make mistakes and good decisions, so every race is more experience in the bank. You do have to adjust your mental picture a bit, such as mark rounding where the angles are different where you have to adjust your special awareness. I think that racing an Etchells adds a lot of value; racing in different boats has made me and my crew learn more, I would definitely encourage it."

Angus Galloway is from Australia but works as a lawyer in London. Angus is on the helm for the leading youth team for the regatta; Currigee (GBR 957). "We struggled for speed and got pushed the wrong way today (Day 4)," commented Angus. "We pulled back a bit during the racing but today we had two tough results, which is frustrating. However, we came here to race against the best fleet in the world and when you do it doesn't always go your way."

Over a third of the sailors taking part in the 2022 Etchells Worlds are classified as youths, including seven on the helm. The youth sailors come from nine different countries; Argentina, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States.

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