Please select your home edition
Edition
Vaikobi 2019AUG - Leaderboard 3
Product Feature
ZhikDry™ LT
ZhikDry™ LT

Courageous teenager wins first-ever Rotary Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award

by Eve Conway 19 May 07:30 BST
Will Sears is determined not to let his disability define him as he competed at both National and World Sailing Championships © Sears famil

14-year-old Will Sears, from Bournemouth, is a remarkable teenager who has challenged the status quo and taken part in sailing championships across the world despite his disability, competing in the same class as athletes without his medical condition. He is winner of the first-ever Rotary Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award 2020, nominated by Christchurch Rotary Club in Dorset.

Will has been a keen sailor since the age of 10 but last April, he suffered a haemorrhagic stroke. He was diagnosed with Cavernous Malformations in his brain, two of which had haemorrhaged and as a result, now has epilepsy. Suddenly his world was turned upside down.

Before his stroke, he had a place to sail on the national and international circuit. He was devastated to be told by medical professionals that his sailing was over.

Determined not to let his disability define him, he was resolute in taking his place at both the RS Tera National Championships in Essex and World Championships in Sweden. Will's mother Cherie said that was: "No easy task! There's no sailing for young people with epilepsy/brain injury generally and there certainly isn't competitive sailing. Will first had to convince the National Sailing Committee he was able and safe before tackling the world organisation."

With the help of his Roald Dahl Specialist Epilepsy Nurse and his sailing club, the National Committee agreed to allow him to compete under strict conditions. There wasn't, and still isn't, any dispensation for disability in the Championships, so Will went and sailed as an equal with his peers.

The Nationals wasn't without difficulty, he suffered a seizure on the water and was medically retired for one of the 2 days. Determined as ever, he went back out on the water, achieving 5th place in the Regatta Fleet. The RS National Association awarded him the Class Trophy for his endeavour and determination.

As for the World Championships, this was only agreed at the last minute after negotiations between the International Association, the UK sailing and medical team. When he arrived however, he was surprised to have been selected to be the UK Squad flag bearer and he proudly paraded at the opening event.

Again, there is no recognition for disability in junior competitive sailing and therefore Will had no dispensation or special handicap. He started well but on the 2nd race of day 2, he had a seizure and was medically retired for the rest of that day and following day. Determined not to let his disability win, he returned to the water on the final day and managed some epic sailing, bringing his final score back up to 44th in the world.

Will's determination did not stop there. He returned to Sea Scouts and has been able to continue to sail and to teach young Scouts to sail as an Assistant Coach.

He is also fundraising for Great Ormond Street Hospital where he is receiving treatment and is due to undergo surgery and the Roald Dahl Marvellous Children's Charity who provided him with his Roald Dahl Specialist Epilepsy Nurse Katrina Bottle and Will featured in the charity's Nurses' Appeal ad campaign illuminated on the big screen at Piccadilly Circus launched on International Nurses' Day last week.

Will won't let his disability define him, preferring to highlight the cause and show how you can succeed through adversity. By his example, and by the precedents he has set, he has opened the doors for many other young people suffering from epilepsy and similar conditions.

Will said: "I've won the Rotary Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award and I'm the first person to win it, which makes me feel extremely happy. I'd like to thank Twynham School and Christchurch Rotary for nominating me and well done to all the other Rotary Young Citizen Award winners and the other nominees. I'm really happy that I've won this Award and everything it's given to me."

Will added: "I challenge the norm because I want other people with brain injuries and epilepsy to be able to take part in sailing and not to feel left out."

He will receive a trophy, certificate and £300 to go towards his chosen project or charity from Rotary in Britain and Ireland. The Rotary Young Citizen Awards Presentation had been due to take place at the UK's first-ever Volunteer Expo, organised by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland at the NEC in Birmingham this month but the event has been postponed until May 2021 due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Rotary in Britain and Ireland President Donna Wallbank said: "Will is a teenager who shows that with determination and effort anything and everything is possible and it is a tribute to those who have undertaken this journey with Will that he continues to compete as an equal despite his disability. Will, as the first winner of the Rotary Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award, is a testimony to what this Award is about."

Rotary Young Citizen Awards

The Rotary Young Citizen Awards were started in 2007 to celebrate the amazing achievements of inspirational young people across Great Britain and Ireland, many of whom have assumed important responsibilities at a very young age. Find out about the other inspirational Rotary Young Citizen Award 2020 Winners at www.rotarygbi.org.

Related Articles

UK Finn Masters and Open Championships
30 boats on the iconic Christchurch Bay race track Over the 19-20th September the experienced team at Christchurch Sailing Club organised a Covid secure and socially distanced UK Masters championship and Open event, much to the delight of the of 30 Finns that attended. Posted on 22 Sep
International Easter vRegatta Series
Competitors from Canada and the UK do battle online Competitors from Canada and the UK met via Zoom on Saturday 11 April 2020. A series of exciting eSailing races was hosted by David Williams (Club2Class). The Virtual Regatta platform was used for sailing. Posted on 16 Apr
Christchurch Finn Spring Series day 1
Fourteen competitors enjoy six races in the harbour Christchurch Sailing Club welcomed visitors and several of its own Finn sailors to compete in the first event of the recently formed BFA Finn Spring Series. Posted on 15 Mar
RYA and Y&Y Club of the Year 2020 awarded
Christchurch Sailing Club have been crowned at the Dinghy Show The Dorset based club was one of 10 finalists selected by the RYA Awards Panel and ultimately crowned by the public vote. The coveted trophy was presented by The British Sailing Team's Arran Holman yesterday at the RYA Dinghy Show. Posted on 1 Mar
Women on Water revitalise club sailing
A fresh and confident breeze blowing through women's sailing in the UK today There is a fresh and confident breeze blowing through women's sailing in the UK today, a real can-do attitude is in charge and it is changing the dynamic of sailing clubs up and down the country. Posted on 29 May 2019
Christchurch Sailing Club Junior Week
71 young sailors have a superb time on the water Christchurch Sailing Club celebrated the end of another superb week of sailing for its junior members. The event ran from Monday 13th until Friday 17th August and attracted 71 of its young sailors. Posted on 22 Aug 2018
Finn Southern Area Championship
Healthy entry of 30 at Christchurch Christchurch Sailing Club welcomed 30 competitors for the Southern Area Championship, which was a healthy entry considering the World Masters had concluded only a week previously in Spain. Posted on 6 Jun 2018
Highcliffe SC Bournemouth Pier Race
No more faith in forecasts Once a year Highcliffe SC leave the protected waters of the harbour, sail out down The Run, up around Hengistbury Head and out to sea in order to race to Bournemouth Pier and back. Posted on 4 Jun 2017
Sea Interclub Series at Highcliffe
Fluky conditions test sea sailors Despite a rather limp forecast, Christchurch SC, Mudeford SC and Highcliffe SC all met up in Christchurch Bay for races 5 &6 of their Sea Interclub Series. Posted on 30 May 2017
Inter-club racing at Highcliffe
Near perfect conditions in Christchurch Harbour Last Sunday's Sea Inter-club racing between local clubs Highcliffe SC, Mudeford SC and Christchurch SC played out in Christchurch harbour in near perfect sailing conditions. Posted on 15 May 2017