I have been sailing since I was old enough to get into a boat, initially steering a Laser with my dad helping to keep it upright. Sailing is in my blood as both of my parents sailed competitively. My dad represented Great Britain when he was 16, at the Cadet World Championships and raced several other classes over the years winning two National Championships in the Merlin Rocket’s and completed an Olympic campaign, with Phil Morrison, in a Star.
I started sailing competitively in a Topper as an able bodied sailor and developed good skills and speed. In windy conditions I found it more difficult to move quickly enough in these unstable boats.
The size of the fleets ranged from 20 boats at Regional Open Meetings to 300 at the National Championships, competing at this level helped me to further develop my skills. I achieved many very good results, here are some:
• 3rd ITCA Topper South East Area Championships, 2007
• 3rd South East Area Zone Championships, 2007
• 6th SE Topper Traveller, Island Barn, 2008
• 2nd South East Area Championships, 2008
• 2nd SE Topper Traveller Newhaven, 2008
• 2nd Topper Traveller Pevensey Bay, 2008
• 1st Laser 4.7 SE Grand Prix Pevensey Bay, 2008
• 4th SE Topper Traveller Bough Beech, 2008
• 2nd Topper SE Traveller Lancing, 2008
• 2nd Overall Bronze Fleet, Magic Marine Topper National Championships, 2008 (Was in bronze fleet due to not being able to compete in windy races during qualifying). Individual race results of 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th in a fleet of 90 boats.
During these meetings I have beaten members of the top RYA Topper National Squad like; Alex Mills-Barton (who has now won the RYA Youth National Championships in a Laser and is in the Olympic Development Squad and Ranked 3rd in Great Britain), Jonathan Hewett (who finished 2nd at the Topper World Championships that year), Dan Bigsby and George Spedding.
I was invited to join various Topper racing squads but decided not to participate as my disability meant that I could not join in the physical training and I couldn’t sail in all conditions.
In 2009 I sustained a shoulder injury which stopped me racing that year. I increasingly found it difficult to control unstable ‘able bodied’ dinghies and whilst recovering from a major back operation I went to the RYA’s Sail For Gold meeting in 2010 to have a look at the Paralympic class boats. Matt Grier, the RYA’s Disabled Racing Development Coach, encouraged me to get a 2.4mR boat. The 2.4mR is sailed by one person who sits in the middle, has a mainsail and a jib and can be steered by hand and/or feet. The boat has a weighted keel to give it stability and has many controls to get the best out of the rig.
In November 2010 I bought a four year old 2.4mR boat and attended several RYA race training sessions over the winter. Discomfort from my operation made this quite difficult but I started to learn more and more about the boat. In March I competed in the RYA Spring Olympic Class National Ranker at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA). I had a great regatta and finished 3rd disabled sailor, only beaten by the two funded RYA Performance Squad members who have been sailing 2.4’s for many years. Based on my performance over the winter of 2010/11 I was selected to join the RYA’s 2.4mR Transitional Squad.