National 12 - find out more...


Tom Smith N3371

My sister, Amy, and I have been sailing National Twelves now for five years. We were introduced to Nationals by our Dad, who used to own N3. When we first started sailing we were both about 13 years old and there were very few people sailing Twelves who were of a comparable age to ours (i.e under 16).

Gradually after buying our first boat, we learned a lot about how not to get wet durIng a capsize (practise), how to avoid getting shouted at (stay away from GP 14 sailors), how to sail round a course (write it down correctly), how to race round a course (write it down correctly and stay away from GP 14 sailors), how to get a result (sign on), etc. We are now at the stage when, given a force four or five on some large flat water we are able to race competitively with the middle of the Twelve fleet. We are very pleased with this, as we still do not have much experience.

This brings me onto the subject of the youth end of the Twelve fleet, which is doing fairly well at the moment. It can only be a good thing for the fleet to have plenty of youngsters enjoying the class because one day they will be the fastest sailors in the fleet. Even Tom Stewart will go grey one day and there is going to have to be someone else to step in when that happens.

Being a junior in a sport such as sailing is not easy because it is impossible to get anywhere if there is no one supporting you. A not insignificant part of this support is having someone to finance your activities. Sailing is not a cheap sport and I doubt that there would be any under 18year olds in the sport at all if they didn't all have someone paying the bills.

Transport is another problem. Open meetings take place all over the country and getting to them is a major problem for most junior sailors. For a junior just getting to a meeting depends on someone giving up a whole day of their weekend to tow the boat there and back. Amy and I have been very fortunate in this way because Dad used to be a sailor and he is happy to give us the support we need. Even so, I cannot explain how much easier life became when I passed my driving test at the beginning of this year and we were finally able to get to open meetings independent of our parents.

To illustrate my point I refer to a conversation I had at Olton Mere Sailing Club on the day of their open meeting. Olton has one of the largest and strongest youth fleets in the Midlands and I was talking to some of the members of this fleet about going to the Guy Fawkes meeting at Middle Nene. They all said they would like to go, but none could because of a lack of boats, transport, road trailers, crews, and several other pieces of kit generally considered essential for getting to open meetings. This is a great shame because it would do the whole fleet a lot of good if somehow we could get more young sailors to try out a few open meetings. It would be great if anyone could help to get some juniors to an open meeting next year by lending a boat, a road trailer or even givIng a lift to the actual meeting if it's only local We will all reap the rewards when open meeting numbers are increased and the quality of the racing continues to improve

Finally I would like to say to the juniors out there that open meetings really are good fun and well worth going to. The final sticking point before leaving for an open meeting is usually homework due in on Monday Tell your parents you don't have any work, or that you've done it all, or that your maths teacher was only joking when he said he wanted it in on Monday It works and it's worth it. See you all in the spring

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