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QTS Group helps East Ayrshire disability sailor set sail

by Edward Hawkins 19 Mar 20:59 GMT
Hansa sailors Rory McKinna from Scotland joins QTS Group's Youth Athlete Programme © Jeff Holmes / www.jshpix.co

A champion disability sailor from Stewarton, Scotland will benefit from a sponsorship deal as he joins QTS Group's established Youth Athlete Programme. The Scottish rail infrastructure contractor has operated its successful Youth Athlete Programme since 2014 and will sponsor 19-year-old Rory McKinna throughout 2021.

Rory, who has only been sailing for six years, has already placed ninth at the 2019 Para World Sailing Championships in Spain, his proudest achievement to date.

He first tried sailing at Castle Semple activity centre, Lochwinnoch, before joining Clyde Cruising Club Dinghy Section in 2015 which enabled him to participate in his first competition, RYA Scotland's Scottish Club Trophy, at Loch Lomond.

Rory now sails at Bardowie Loch, near Milngavie, home of the club's Dinghy Section and his current boat 'Glasgow Bonnet', a Hansa 303, is a fully accessible dinghy. Throughout the summer season, he aims to sail at least twice a week and compete in as many club competitions as possible, around the UK.

The year-long support from QTS Group's Youth Athlete Programme will allow Rory to continue competing both nationally and internationally once competitions resume.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic means that the upcoming sailing season remains uncertain, especially with the current travel restrictions in place, the first competition, the Eurosaf European Para Sailing Championships at The Hague, Netherlands, is still scheduled for June.

Single-handed sailing was one of the first sports to be resumed following the first lockdown last year, however current restrictions mean that Rory has been limited to playing 'Virtual Regatta', an online sailing race simulator, to practice his tactics.

Rory said: "Over the last five years, I have been sailing as regularly as possible to continue to improve at the sport, as well as coaching all ages and abilities throughout the summer months. When you start off sailing it is a very affordable sport, however, now I have reached a competitive level, the sponsorship from QTS Group's Youth Athlete Programme will help with the costs associated with competing, like travel and accommodation when competitions resume post-Covid.

"Although disability sailing is no longer included in the Paralympics, things are looking positive for a return to the sporting programme in the future, giving me the opportunity to compete for a Paralympic medal."

Alongside Rory, QTS Group's Youth Athlete Programme will retain its 15 athletes that were on the programme in 2020, including Youth Athlete Ambassadors, skier Nicole Ritchie and Paralympic swimmer Scott Quin. These athletes are across a range of sporting disciplines including kickboxing, cyclo-cross, motorbike racing and boxing. The programme now supports a total of ten Scottish and five English athletes, after launching for the first time in England in 2019.

Alan McLeish, managing director of QTS Group, said: "We are proud to support Rory, an incredibly talented and ambitious sailor, throughout 2021. He is not only dedicated to his sport but also to inspiring and teaching others, including other disability sailors. We started the programme to support aspiring grassroots athletes across various sporting disciplines, from more popular sports to those often under-represented. Throughout the pandemic, we're committed to continuing to support to our youth athletes by both retaining our existing athletes for a further year and also expanding the programme."

To find out more about the QTS Youth Athlete Programme, please visit www.qtsgroup.com/strategic-partnerships/youth-athletes

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