Hugh Styles backs RYA cat scheme
"I want to get rid of the 'them and us' syndrome that exists between dinghy and catamaran sailors," he said. "The skills for both are very much the same, and there is so much going on with cat racing at the moment - with The Race, the Formula 18 class, and the 60-foot multihull series in France. It's a part of the sport that's really taking off."
The RYA Catamaran Programme aims to allow up and coming youth sailors a way into that world rather than via the traditional dinghy routes that most UK cat racers have come through.
"If there was one thing we could have done with more of in Sydney, it was catamaran racing experience. We had four years worth of knowledge to compete with compared to the gold medallists (Roman Hagara and Hans
Steinacher, Austria), who have been racing multihulls for 15 years and the silver medallists in 1996 have been racing Tornados for longer than Adam has been alive.
"Getting into multihull sailing at an early age will enable sailors to get a head start at learning the art of catamaran racing. There is no substitute for time spent on the water," explained Hugh. Aside from backing the RYA's efforts to promote cat racing, Styles is also running a coaching weekend for the Formula 18 class on 24-25 February at Parkstone Yacht Club in Poole, the venue for the world championships this July. "The Formula 18 class is a great class to sail, and there is a lot of interest from F18 sailors to get into Olympic campaigning in the Tornado, now that it has gone to twin-trapeze and gennaker.
"They weren't interested before, because quite rightly they thought: 'Why should I sit on the side of a cat when I can trapeze off the side of one, and have more fun?' Already I have heard Lisa McDonald say she might go Tornado racing with her husband Neal [currently leading The Race aboard Club Med]. You wouldn't have heard them say that three years ago. The interest is enormous now that the Tornado is changing."
RYA high performance manager Simon Wergan and RYA youth multihull coach and cat sailing guru Brian Phipps devised the youth programme that could see yet more interest in the Tornado flourish. Phipps said: "I believe this programme opens a whole new door to youth sailing. To be able to compete against the French, Australian's and other top multihull sailing nations we need to develop skilful catamaran sailors from an early age and not simply rely on transferring sailors across from other disciplines. We have the opportunity, support and equipment to produce future world champions, all we need is the sailors with the right aptitude and energy."
The scheme will kick off with three introduction and evaluation weekends in May, June and July where up to 36 youth crews (12 per weekend, six per day) will have the opportunity to sail and train in the RYA fleet of Dart 16 catamarans. On and off water coaching from Brian Phipps and an RYA high performance manager will be provided.
The three provisional weekends will be May 12/13, June 2/3 and July 28/29. Venues are yet to be confirmed.
After an assessment period, the top six crews will be offered a special charter deal by Hobie Europe for six months and will form the basis of a new RYA Catamaran Development Squad.
To qualify for the programme, sailors must normally be aged between 11-15 years (people outside this age range may be considered), be prepared to commit to an RYA Catamaran Squad training and racing programme and be eligible to compete for Great Britain in the future.
There will be a seminar on the RYA Catamaran Development Programme at the RYA's Sailboat and Windsurf show at Alexandra Palace on Sunday 4 March.
Youth sailors who wish to enrol on the programme can email Simon Wergan, the RYA's southern high performance manager.