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GJW Direct 2020

Enter now for the British Keelboat League Youth Championships

by Paula Irish 27 May 08:17 BST
Royal Hospital School competing in the 2020 British Keelboat League final © BKL

Young sailors from clubs, classes, schools and universities are being invited to #rockupandrace in RS21s at the 2021 British Keelboat League Youth Championships.

This exciting round of the popular 'rock up and race' series will take place 10-11 July on the waters of the Solent from Island Sailing Club, Cowes.

Entries for the BKL Youth Championships are open for mixed teams of four sailors who are aged over 15 and under 25 on 31st December 2021.

Jack Fenwick, of RYA British Keelboat Sailing, said: "It will be a great opportunity for young sailors to get together and race keelboats with their friends without the hassle of transporting a boat. The fast-turnaround BKL format of short sprint races is also not only fun but a brilliant way to develop your teamwork and sailing skills."

Among those already taking part in this year's British Keelboat League is Royal Hospital School in Suffolk, which has entered a team for the Burnham event at Royal Corinthian YC.

RHS Head of Sailing Ed Sibson said: "For us it's about our youth sailors having a good weekend of racing, gaining some keelboat experience and broadening their horizons. The format is just fantastic because it enables you to get involved and do something you wouldn't otherwise have any opportunity to do.

"The boats are provided and really well set up, and the short races mean that if you're in the middle or towards the back of the fleet, 8-10 minutes later it's finished, you're into the next race and everything is reset. The opportunity to improve over the weekend with that style of racing is huge because you can think about what went well in your start or first beat, apply some changes and visibly see some improvements.

"It enables the sailors to learn the boat and tactics as the racing progresses and everyone involved with the British Keelboat League wants the teams to enjoy themselves and benefit from taking part, so people are very willing to help and offer advice."

RHS first participated in the BKL in 2018 at Burnham, making a positive impression on the race committee which resulted in a wild card invite to the final on the Solent. With Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Ian Walker hopping on board for a chat, and the chance to race top teams from around the UK, it proved to be a memorable weekend.

"It just made a really lasting impression on that small group of sailors and it was a big eye opener for them in terms of the standard of sailing outside of what they were used to," says Ed. "A lot of them had been through youth squads but to then go and do something like that against adults was a really good experience for them."

A four-strong staff team from the school also entered the BKL in 2018, competing in Cowes, and likewise found it enjoyable: "It was just a really good weekend of racing without any hassle, and it was affordable, which is always a big part of it. So that was our toe in the water with the BKL and it was really positive."

The school entered the British Keelboat League again in 2020 with a Year 13 team, only to see its BKL qualifier cancelled due to Covid-19. The team was able compete though in an invitational BKL final at Lymington, with parental support to meet Covid guidelines.

As with the RHS entry of 2018, the team finished mid fleet but with some podium race results and as Ed explains: "They just thoroughly enjoyed it and loved sailing the boat. It was challenging breezy conditions and they were nowhere near heavy enough, but they got the boat around the course and came away with credit for a youth level entry.

"It's the sort of thing which we hope will get some momentum. We tend to have sailors who are very dinghy-centric and work with them so that by the time they leave school they also have some experience of keelboat racing, match racing, foiling, coastal cruising and expeditioning. Taking part in the BKL has become aspirational for the younger sailors as they look up to the older ones and forward to taking part when they are old enough."

The British Keelboat League was established in 2016 to increase participation in keelboat racing by providing an accessible level playing field in one-design boats for teams representing clubs and associations from across the breadth of the sport.

A series of events or qualifiers takes place each summer and the best teams then have the chance to battle it out in a national final be crowned the British Keelboat League champions.

Find out more at www.britishkeelboatleague.co.uk and enter this year's events, including the BKL Youth Championships, at www.britishkeelboatleague.co.uk/events-2021

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