Young sailors complete training for life changing race experience

03 August 2015

Following nominations from all over the UK last year, Charlie Stannard, 19, from Tower Hamlets, London, and Heather Thomas, 18, from Otley, West Yorkshire, won the life-changing opportunity to experience Mother Nature’s toughest conditions in the Pacific Ocean crossing of the 2015-16 race.

Crew members must complete all four of the compulsory training courses before taking part in the race. Charlie, who was nominated by Steve Mitchell, RYA Regional Development Officer for the Thames Valley and London region and Heather, nominated by Norman Stephens, senior instructor and trustee from Otley Sailing Club, recently completed the final stage of race training ahead of their 6,637-mile adventure.

“Training for me was brilliant- I learnt so much and met so many amazing people,” says Heather, who is on the Da Nang- Viet Nam team.

“The boats are really cool and unlike anything I have sailed before so learning to sail them and make them go as fast as possible was really rewarding. All the crew that I have met have been really friendly and so much fun to sail with. I have also met some inspirational skippers and instructors.

“There are so many moments that have been amazing! I think the bond with the team is pretty awesome, but actually proving to myself I can do things that I thought I would never be able to do- like hanking on a sail in a Force 8 right at the bow of the boat or climbing the mast when the boat is rolling around has been really rewarding.”

Level 4 sees crew members train with their race team while pitching themselves against the rest of the Clipper Race fleet. By this point crew have all the skills they need to sail the yacht so it’s now down to creating a racing environment on board. The final training course aims to step up the level of competitiveness amongst the crews.

Charlie, who will sail on board IchorCoal, says: “Helming the Clipper 70 during my Level 4 training off the start line of our first race and leading the fleet with my crew mates for a few miles would be the highlight so far.

“The most challenging would be the physical impact the training has had. Constant grinding and trimming the kite during racing wore me out however it has driven me to want to do more and also help team mates out who are in the same position.”

The unique prize, including full race training and return flights to and from the race start and finish was donated by Clipper Race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation , the charity that Sir Ben Ainslie helped to establish in memory of his friend and Olympic sailing gold medalist Andrew “Bart” Simpson.

When asked what he hopes to achieve from the experience, Charlie says: “I would love to do my yacht masters and adapt what I have learnt from the Clipper Race into a future career of sailing and ocean racing.”

Heather says: “I'm not going to lie, a first place finish would be a dream come true and it's definitely something I am aiming for but at the very least, I want to make some life-long friends and have a really amazing and life changing experience. I want to go out of my comfort zone and accomplish things that I never dreamed in a million years I could, or would have the chance to do.”


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