Oliver Wilcox, Year 9, describes his passion for Sailing.
“I started sailing when I was nine years old. My parents took me down to my local sailing club for a taster day because the last boat I purchased from a souvenir shop, whilst on holiday, took up the whole back seat of our car! They thought I would fall out of the boat a few times and that would be the end of that … or so my parents thought!
Three years later I have just been selected for the RYA Junior Intermediate Squad sailing a single-handed racing dinghy known as a Topper. This squad has approximately 24 sailors selected from the UK. The squad is part of the British Youth Sailing Programme which feeds into the Olympic programme. Last year, I was selected for the South West Zone Squad and National ITCA 4.2 Squad (which uses a smaller sail).
To be selected for these squads you have to compete and do well at National selector events. Squad places are very competitive. Where you might have sailor friends on the land, they become your enemies on the water. You even sometimes have to protest a mate, which can be very difficult. A protest is basically mediation whereby both parties get to say what happened on the water and a juror makes the final decision based on the facts. It can be intense and takes place at the end of the day. Sanctions can cost you your race position.
Most sailors come from a sailing background and start very young so the standard is high. At a National event I could be racing against 150-200 sailors, ranging in age from 9 to 17 years old. We do a lot of travelling all over the UK, so my geography is excellent! I also competed at the 2017 Topper Worlds in Loctudy, France during our summer holidays which brought sailors as far away as China, Macau and South Africa. Chinese 4.2 sailors are good.
I have attached some photographs taken at Plas Heli the Welsh National Sailing Academy in Pwllheli, North Wales. The photos were taken over a course of a week of racing. I chose to show these pictures because they demonstrate a good range of conditions on the water. The wind speeds were very strong for most of the week. Not my ideal conditions being a light sailor. This was one of the selector events. My championship number is 370. To give you an idea of the extreme conditions, on the very first day one sailor lost his boat! It turned up the following day three miles away on a beach, a little worse for wear!!