A Club for All the Family  West Oxfordshire Sailing Club

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2015/16 Junior sailing report

Our Junior season started as always with the pre-season briefing for parents and children. As usual there was a good turnout of new faces eager to find out what the Club can offer 8 to 18 year olds. The coaches ran through the various parts of the programme and explained to parents their responsibilities and what the Club expected of them. Always a friendly affair and helpful for us to get to know children and parents we have not met before.

Our Saturday afternoon sessions started in May and are for any junior who wants to come a have a sail. In practice these sessions run by Andrew Day are for the younger beginners who get afloat and learn to sail in our Oppie dinghies. The emphasis is on giving children an enjoyable introduction to our sport evidenced as usual by the happy children found having fun and games and generally 'messing about in boats' at the club on many Summer Saturday afternoons.

Junior Sailing Week at the beginning of August was fully subscribed as usual and what a fantastic week it was. The freedom afforded to the lucky children able to attend this week is a rare thing these days. The amazing thing is that it is all under the watchful eye of parents who often end up having as much fun as their children! There are usually two sessions per day starting at 1pm for each of the three groups (Oppies, Toppers and Fireflies) each run by experienced Club members who give up their time voluntarily along with the patrol boat drivers and many others besides. Often our older Juniors come along and help teach the next generation but unfortunately this year most of them were away at the Firefly National Championships (a clash we have avoided for next year).

Junior sailing week is often a spring board for some of our juniors to move on from just 'messing about in boats'  to racing which many do by joining the Club junior team racing sessions which start in September. This year we had slightly less new recruits than usual which I think we can put down to the clash between the Firefly nationals and Junior Seeing Week. However at this time we have an excellent core of sailors who were all keen and this year have really progressed sail at a standard that allows them to compete against some of the top U18 teams in the country. Once again this year we competed at the RYA National Youth and Junior team racing champs in the middle of October against 27 other teams. We were without two of our better sailors but our A team were able to finish half way up the fleet with 9 wins out of 17 races sailed. Our extremely inexperienced B team who had two sailors who normally crew helming didn't manage a single win but were involved in many very close races which they might well have won on another day.

Team race training continued on into the winter with training sessions changing over to early Sunday mornings before Club racing in the New Year. Our goal was to make a good showing in the N.S. S.A. Two Boat Team racing Champs in the middle of March. A shorter than normal session starting at 9.30am was then followed by a short debrief and the sailors competing in the first Club fleet race starting at 11.30am. The idea was to get the helm and crews sailing together some 'boat speed' time in the boat together as well as to pit them against each other and some experienced club sailors. This regime seemed to work well and I believe had some bearing on our subsequent excellent showing at the NSSA event which our A team won beating Cambridgeshire Schools in the semi-final 2 to 1 and Magdalene College School in the final 2 to 0. Our B team just missed out on the semi-finals by one win in the round robin series and should feel very much part of this success for the Club.

It would be good to think that we can continue to develop or at least maintain team racing at the Club after all the hard work put in by so many to get to the point where it genuinely offers Team Racing to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in this fantastic form of our sport which is a main player at most Universities and many public schools and above all is fun!!

Tony Thresher  


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