We are often asked at HRCST about the next step for keen young sailors once they’ve learned the ropes with us. Many parents wonder how teenagers, in particular, can progress their sailing skills, and where a love of being on the water might take them.
Over the years, we’ve seen many children progress from their first outings in an Oppy to moving up a gear in our after-school youth group and racing at the annual HRCST junior regattas. Some of them train with us to become course helpers and even qualified RYA Dinghy Instructors. The opportunity to build ‘on the water’ experience is invaluable for developing confidence and life skills, which is why we’re so excited to announce the launch of the HRCST Youth Club next April – a new initiative for 8-15-year-olds, generously supported by the Trinity House Maritime Charity.
For Georgie Altham, time with the HRCST served as a springboard into the sailing world. Since she learned to sail on a holiday course here on the Helford River, at the age of 10, Georgie has progressed to bigger, more challenging boats and is now studying maritime engineering and ship science at the University of Southampton.
“I remember seeing the brightly coloured sails on the river as a child and thinking ‘I want to do that’,” says Georgie, whose Cambridgeshire-based family spend time on the Helford every summer. “The HRCST introduced me to sailing and I grew to love it, developing my skills each year on the Trust’s holiday courses.”
At 14, Georgie started competitive sailing in her own Topper, taking part in the national club series for Rutland and the National Sailing Association summer regatta. From there she progressed to a 4.7 Laser, racing every weekend with Hunts Sailing Club in St Ives, Cambridge.
“I didn’t do very well at first, but I learned loads,” she recalls, crediting club member David Catto for providing the inspiration and encouragement she needed to persevere. “David had huge passion for the sport and became a mentor to me. He was determined to get the next generation racing and organised Laser race training and national events. With his help, I qualified for the Laser 4.7 Youth World Championships and trained at Lymington and Gosport.
“It was when I started racing that I really got hooked,” adds Georgie, who has good memories and many friends from her teen racing days. “Most clubs are welcoming and want you to improve so that the [racing] class improves. I felt part of a real community of genuinely nice people, with a shared common interest.”
One of our aims here at HRCST is to develop the coaching skills of our young sailors, as a natural progression from their own learning journey. Georgie later volunteered with the Trust, becoming a qualified Dinghy Instructor so that she could help out on our holiday courses for a week each summer.
“This was a lot of fun and strengthened my links with the local sailing community,” she says. “I then gained my RYA Competent Crew and took part in Falmouth week for three or four years, in the Westerly GK24 classes. I even had the opportunity to crew for a J92, which is a much faster boat.
“Crewing is a great way to get racing experience,” adds Georgie. “The British Keelboat Academy offers training and race experience for young sailors and can put you in touch with well-known teams looking for crew.”
Georgie competed last year in Southampton, in the RORC ladies’ under-25 at the J70 club. Back at home, she raced an RS600 and a Cherub – a 12’ skiff which can reach 25 knots – to finish third in the Cherub Travellers Series of 2019.
Her love of the sport has endured from Cornwall to Cambridgeshire and on to Cowes, considered by many the mecca of sailing. It was there that she joined the Fast 40+ crew that won the Offshore Series 2019 and the Summer Series 2020 – performing over 10 major races
“My next challenge is to master the International Moth I’ve been given on loan for a year,” adds Georgie, who is adding another string to her bow by developing her race photography skills. “For me, those early days with HRCST opened up a world of opportunity on the water.”