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GJW 2018 728x90

On the campaign trail: We speak to GJW Direct sponsored sailor Jack Graham-Troll

by Mark Jardine 21 Feb 11:36 GMT
Jack Graham-Troll in his Laser 4.7 © Paul Gibbins Photography

Jack Graham-Troll is a Laser 4.7 sailor who is working his way up the fleet at RYA Squad events at the same time as trying to balance his school work and other weekend activities.

After seeing a dinghy sitting in the garden which his father had bought before Jack was born, he decided he wanted to start sailing. The family joined Banbury Sailing Club when he was ten years old and he had his first experience of sailing:

"I started in the beginners' youth group and after only a couple of lessons I was sailing a boat on my own. I was keen to learn and really enjoyed my time on the water. Seeing the enthusiasm and potential that I had, mum and dad bought me my first boat, a Topper Taz dinghy. I loved it and continued to develop and practice the skills I was learning."

Jack was quick to pick up the skills needed to sail competitively and progressed. After just a month he was regularly sailing an Optimist on his own: "I really enjoyed being out on the open water, completely in control of my own boat, which gave me a real sense of freedom and achievement."

The boat in the garden was an Otter dinghy, which has now been lovingly restored and is regularly sailed at the club.

The progression from sailing for fun to competing was a natural one for Jack:

"Just three months into my sailing, our club hosted a round of the Northamptonshire Youth Racing Series and I asked to compete in my Taz dinghy. Despite not sailing a competitive boat, I achieved great results and relished the competition. I had caught the racing bug!"

Sailing is a sport blessed with diversity and choice, and there are so many aspects of it which can improve performance. Jack described what he found suited him best:

"I like everything about sailing, but the main things I enjoy are competing and challenging myself. Sailing is quite strategic and technical, and I like thinking and preparing before and event, studying the tidal charts and the wind."

2018 saw Jack compete in his first Nationals, racing in Plymouth at the UK National and Open Laser Championships. This was a week-long event, but Jack was only set to compete during the weekend due to his parent's work commitments. It was all-change once the family were there!

"We travelled down in the motorhome on Friday night to prepare for the first day's racing on Sunday, and were then due to travel home on the Sunday night for work on Monday morning. I was so keen and eager to be there, I put in a really good result on the first day. My mum and dad could clearly see my enthusiasm, so at the last minute they re-arranged their week to enable me to stay.

"Mum and Dad work together, so my mum went home on the train and persuaded my sister to work with her which allowed my dad to stay with me and complete the whole week's racing. I was improving more and more as the week progressed and on day four I had my best result ever. Leading the fleet of 60 boats around the top mark and finishing sixth at the line - to see my dad so proud when I came ashore made it my most enjoyable sail to date!"

We've all had points in a race where things aren't going well: sometimes through a poor decision or sometimes through sheer bad luck. As any top sailor will tell you, the key at these points is to keep a calm head and work your way back into contention. Jack's approach to these situations showed he's clearly taken in this message:

"I try not forget about it, but not dwell on it during the race. I like to learn from the mistake or what has happened, so I can avoid it in the future, but that can be done after sailing. If you're trying to think about what's happened previously while still racing then you're not going to be able to push forwards."

In the United Kingdom we are incredibly lucky to have so many sailors we can aspire to emulate. Being a Laser sailor, it's no surprise that Jack draws inspiration from two British multi-time Laser World Champions:

"I like Nick Thompson because he came to do a talk at Lymington and is probably one of my favourite current dinghy sailors. I've also got Ben Ainslie's Laser book and he's quite inspirational with the way he does his fitness training and his Olympic campaigns."

Jack's own ambitions in the sport are high, both in the near and long-term:

"I'm looking to compete at the European Championship in 2019, trying to qualify for the squad. I'm concentrating on as much training as possible throughout the winter, which I feel is paramount to develop and improve my racing skills and technique, and I'm already planning for my second Laser Nationals at Largs in 2019. Hopefully in the future I'd like to compete at the Olympics!"

Like any young sportsman who is reaching a high level, Jack has to balance up his sailing with his school work, and this can prove a challenge: "I have to keep up with everything at school but also work hard on my fitness and preparation for each event. I have to do my homework before I go away for a weekend it's a balancing act."

Furthermore, Jack's sporting interests stretch beyond sailing, adding more to an already packed life:

"Thanks to my sister, I am a competent horse rider. Horse riding is her passion and, before sailing took me over, I enjoyed sharing time with her at our local stables. She taught me how to ride so that I could go out on hacks with her through the surrounding countryside.

"To build my strength and fitness in dinghy sailing, I enjoy cycling, walking and swimming. With up to four races back-to-back each day, it's so important to be as fit in the last race as you are in the first!"

GJW Direct's support has helped Jack throughout the 2018 season, and will continue to as he progresses in 2019:

"It's inevitable whilst racing that a bump will happen with other competitors. I had a collision with another boat which wasn't my fault and the repair was completed by the other insurer's repairer. The colour match was all wrong and they couldn't get it right, so they said that's the best they can do. GJW Direct stepped in and without a fuss offered a deal to replace my old hull with a new one to ensure I was totally happy. I've never experienced this level of dedicated support from an insurer before, so thank you to GJW Direct for getting me back out on the water and back into racing so quickly and confidently. I am now looking forward to building our relationship as a GJW Direct sponsored sailor. It makes me so proud to have them believe in me and I take on the example they set, to always strive to be the best I can be."

With Jack's commitment and ambition he's sure to be a name to watch throughout 2019 and beyond!

Find out more about GJW Direct at www.gjwdirect.com