Sailing away to success

A school in the Lake District is the first in the country to earn RYA champion club status for sail racing

Windermere School, a co-educational independent school situated in the heart of the Lake District, has been awarded champion club status by the Royal Yachting Association, and in doing so becomes the first school in the UK to achieve this.

RYA champion clubs are recognized as being centres of excellence for junior race training and racing and many form the very foundation of the British sailing teams. Since the inception of the original Volvo RYA champion club programme in 1997, the scheme has recognized, promoted and invested in clubs which have continually introduced young people into sail racing and encouraged them to progress via good-quality race training in a safe and fun environment.

In order to gain RYA champion club status, Windermere School has had to show that it not only introduces young people into racing, but also that it develops their enthusiasm and talent. A measure of this success is the number of young sailors gaining places in the RYA zone/home country squads. The school had already received confirmation that one of its students had been selected for the RYA intermediate topper squad and recently the school was pleased to announce that eight of its students have confirmed places in the RS Feva XL north/west RYA zone squad.

Duncan Truswell, RYA youth racing manager, says: ‘These champion clubs are rightly recognized as the very foundations of our performance programmes, not only providing great coaching, advice and support, but also as those locations which provide great places for young people to have fun, alongside learning to sail, race and develop their enthusiasm for competitive sailing and thereby progress within the sport.’

Windermere School applied for the champion club status following a program of assessment and improvement at its Hodge Howe watersports and outdoor education site, located on the Lake Windermere, less than a mile from both the junior and senior school sites. Hodge Howe has been operating for a number of years as both a BCU and RYA training centre, and the application for champion club status brings the centre into alignment with the whole school ethos.

As an RYA champion club, Windermere School will be entitled to a series of benefits. These include development advice and support to continuously recruit young sailors into the sport at the right age for them to have the best chances of achieving success in the future; recruiting, training and contracting in coaches to support the delivery of club programmes; the accreditation and branding of an RYA centre of excellence; and access to the very best coaching resources (including best practice workshops).

Graeme Rowe is the RYA principal and chief sailing instructor at Windermere School and has been race coaching for over 15 years: ‘Champion club status shows that as a school we are serious about sail racing and that we are dedicated to providing as many opportunities as possible for the students to become exceptional athletes. It is a fantastic achievement and could not have been done without the help of the staff and the many kind contributions from the Friends of Windermere School. We are looking forward to working with the RYA and I’m sure we can look forward to producing some extremely talented sailors.’

Ian Lavender, headmaster of Windermere School, adds: ‘I am delighted that the Royal Yachting Association has awarded the school champion club status. We are the first school in the country to have achieved this accolade and many people have worked very hard to make this possible – staff, parents and governors – but I would particularly like to congratulate Graeme Rowe for the way he has transformed sailing at Windermere School. To me what is important, however, is not the status itself, but the increased opportunities that can now be afforded to our students.’


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