Teenage sailing team beat world champions


A team of five teenage sailors is celebrating its return from the US after competing in the keelboat world championships last month.

Amongst the sailing experts are two Steyning Grammar School Sixth Form students Millie Webb and Olivia Cleary who, along with Sussex Yacht Club’s Shoreham Youth Team, beat two-time world champions to the finish line.

The 2013 Sonar World Championships in Rochester, America, saw 30 teams battle it out in the 10-race event.

The Sonar is a seven meter keelboat best known in Britain for being the three-person Paralympic class. However, up to five people can sail the boat and the world championships featured a mix of both able-bodied and Paralympic sailors.

Although this is the team’s first attempt at the big leagues, it finished ahead of the British Sailing Team’s three-time Paralympians and double IFDS World champion crew.

Millie, 17, said: “To be on the start line with amazingly talented sailors was incredible. On this trip I learnt lots of things, one of which was about being and working together as a team as well as many technical things about sailing.”

Olivia, 16, said: “We had only competed in tidal waters before, and were used to very windy, rough conditions, so it was a new experience racing on Lake Ontario with a vast range of conditions.”

Both Millie and Olivia got into sailing through Steyning Grammar School’s involvement in Royal Yacht Association’s ‘OnBoard’ at Sussex Yacht Club four years ago when the club came to do an assembly.

OnBoard is run by sailing’s national governing body providing low-cost sailing opportunities for local school and youth groups.

Millie added: “If I hadn’t had the chance to learn through OnBoard I wouldn’t have developed my skills this far and wouldn’t have been given these amazing opportunities.”

Sussex Yacht Club training principal Kevin Headon, 50, said it was an ‘amazing achievement’.

“We’re all fantastically proud of them.

“They were up against teams with brand new equipment and big backing from their countries. We only had a shoestring budget.”

Sussex Yacht Club’s Shoreham Youth Team sailors also include Alex Gooch, 19, George Hinchliffe, 17, and Hayley Weir, 18.

Shoreham Youth Team ended its World’s debut 26th out of 30 boats overall, finishing on a high with its best two race results of 17th and 13th.

The team now has one eye on the Sonar European Championships and Cowes Week in 2014 and the 2015 Worlds.

For more details visit www.shorehamyouthteam.co.uk or www.sussexyachtclub.org.uk