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Interview with the J/24 Parkstone Youth Team

by Mark Jardine 10 Jun 2016 11:06 BST 10 June 2016
J/24 class Youth Team from Parkstone Yacht Club © Mark Jardine

We talked to the J/24 class Youth Team from Parkstone Yacht Club during the International Paint Poole Regatta. The event team consisted of helmsman Liam Pardy, Harry Wilkes, George Kennedy, Eden Luke and Ollie Dustan.

Mark: Liam, can you first of all tell me a bit about your background in sailing and what you've done before the J/24?

Liam: I've been sailing since I was about six years old. I've been working my way through dinghies, going to the Cadet Worlds twice, part of the national squad in the Cadet class as well. Then, moving on to the Laser, where I sailed in a few ladder events, but not many - I mainly sailed here (Parkstone). I did my first Commodore's Challenge, a keelboat event here, six years ago - we won that event, and then I was part of that team again for the next four years. The past two years I've been around, background coaching and things like that. I've been J/24 sailing on Monday nights for about four years as a crew. And the past two years, I was on the other youth J/24 that Parkstone owns, helming that one and coaching some kids through similar routes. I do also do a bit of keelboat sailing at Uni so I've been in and around it pretty much every week.

Mark: How did the idea come about for Parkstone to buy a boat for you to do up?

George: We started this team up about a year ago after doing some Thursday evening sailing. We thought it would be nice if it was possible to represent the club at an event so we went to the (J/24) Autumn Cup in September last year as a taster. Following this the fleet approached us and asked if we wanted our own boat, so in October, Duncan McCarthy and I presented the proposition to the general committee and they signed off on it so we went ahead with the plan and picked up our boats from Dartmouth.

Mark: What work did you have to do to the boats before you could actually get them racing and how have you financed things?

Harry: We got the boat from Plymouth where it was, and when we brought it back, it was in a state of needing some love, a lot of items were broken or in need of repair, So, slowly we've been able to sand everything down, re-paint it, antifoul, equip new lines, and generally just making the boat look like it can pass as safe boat really.

Mark: What support have you had to get to where you are - how have you financed things?

Liam: Well, we've had huge support from around the club; Parkstone have funded all our chandlery stuff at the local chandlery. We've been very fortunate to get a sponsor from Harken as well, so they've helped us out hugely, also XP Rigging just down in Parkstone Bay have helped to provide bits and bobs as well as advice - we have been so, so lucky. Without all our sponsors, we wouldn't be where we are today. We're very, very fortunate. We're getting it all together, it's been a lot of commitment to get the boat ready.

Mark: And in the J/24 fleet itself, have you had support from the other sailors to get tuned and up to speed?

George: Big time from people like Duncan McCarthy and David Lush – they've helped us massively with rigging, tips and sails - we've had so many sails donated to us. We cannot thank everyone enough for that because the sails that came with the boat weren't great. So we've had to get newer sails from people in the class - they've all been very kind and generous. We appreciate that people's hard-earned money had been spent on those sails, and they've really helped us get back to a decent level, which is great.

Mark: I've watched quite a bit of the racing in the J/24 fleet and first-to-last looks about three minutes in every single race. How have you found the racing at this event?

Harry: It's our first event that we've done as a team, and obviously there's still some nags that we're still ironing out, but it's been competitive, very competitive. We've been up and then down but I'd say we're pretty happy with the outcome.

George: Competing in a Westerly we're not going be at the top end of the fleet, but I think, considering we've only been on the boat twice together, and Ollie's never sailed with us before, so in all we did pretty well.

Mark: And Eden, as the girl on the team, how have you found your event?

Eden: Yes, really good. We've all got on pretty well, considering everything. Yeah, a good weekend!

Mark: Now, moving on, what are your aims for your racing in the J/24 fleet moving forwards?

Liam: Our next event we're doing is the Round the Island on the 2nd July, so that should be quite interesting on a J/24 - there's a trophy for the class. We've entered for the youth prize - I think there are six other teams entered for that so it'll be quite interesting to see how that turns out.

We'll get some training in before then, and after that, we've got the Europeans in Plymouth, which is in August. So, that's the next big one we'll be looking at. We're training, hopefully twice a week, just getting ourselves up to speed, building teamwork and sorting all the necessary things we need. We close our J/24 season with the Autumn Cup at Parkstone and then we go into making the boat look nice again for next year.

Mark: If you were going to give advice to youth sailors who want to get into keelboat racing, and also to clubs who were looking at how to bridge that gap for sailors to get involved in keelboat racing, what advice would you give them with the experience that you've had?

Harry: First of all they've got to get on a boat somehow - we're really fortunate as we were given one, we're so fortunate for that. The best way to start, which is what me and George have done, is getting on boats - we've rocked up and seen if anyone needs a crew. We've gained experience from that, the club saw this and introduced the first youth boat to get youth involved, as it's just about getting out there basically. If a club then thinks there may be potential, then they may help out and get a boat for you. Here at Parkstone we're so fortunate, just to have everything that we do.

George: Just being able to have the confidence to walk down the pontoon, ask a couple of people, and then we ended up with a permanent spot quite easily and you'll learn tons. Everyone's so keen on getting you into it – it's really good.

Mark: So you think clubs could really take a lot from the example that Parkstone Yacht Club have set?

Liam: Especially with the J/24 fleet here - everyone is so close together and I think we take a lot of pride in our J/24 fleet. With help from the club, help from a class like the J/24, I think any club could really push a youth fleet. They're also happy to see us out there because we are a dedicated youth team - I'm the oldest on board, but I don't really class myself as an adult.

Youth teams are something that the J/24 fleet does lack - we've got the Irish guys here this weekend, but they've come from Ireland and they are the only other youth team - so I think it's something that clubs could push and so that people who are interested in, can definitely get involved with.

George: I think it's something that other countries like Germany do really well. It would be nice to see take hold over here.

Mark: Well, I have to say congratulations on getting things together - getting a keelboat out on the water, and all together as a team, and best of luck for the rest of your campaign.

The Team: Thank you very much. Cheers.

The Parkstone Youth Team would like to thank their sponsors; Quay West Marine Chandlers at Parkstone, Parkstone Yacht Club, XP Rigging, Harken, the UK J/24 Class Association and its members, especially David Lush and Duncan McCarthy.

About Haven Knox-Johnston

Run by boating enthusiasts for boating enthusiasts, Haven Knox-Johnston has grown to become one of the UK's leading providers in boat insurance. All policies are backed by the financial strength and security of MS Amlin Syndicate 2001 one of the largest Syndicates in Lloyd's.

Haven Knox-Johnston has over 30 years of experience in providing boat insurance for most types of craft including sailing boats and yachts.

Haven Knox-Johnston is a trading name of MS Amlin Underwriting Services Limited, St Helen's, One Undershaft, London EC3A 8ND which is authorised and regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.

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