Inside the British Keelboat Academy

James Boyd Photography /
We look at the Cowes-based operating for creating professional yacht racing sailors
While the RYA’s various programs, nurturing British youth sailors up through dinghy classes, has had spectacular success in creating Team GBR’s outstanding Olympic sailors, progressing talent through to other areas of the sailing still has some way to go before it achieves similar success in the UK. The Artemis Offshore Academy is finally going some way to address the lack of British sailors heading into the French-dominated world of shorthanded sailing. Meanwhile the British Keelboat Academy in Cowes provides young sailors with the necessary training to set them up with a future in big boat racing. The BKA was set up in October 2009 from a combination of the RYA Keelboat Program and the UKSA’s GBR Yacht Racing Academy (which in turn developed out of the Bear of Britain program, established by the late Kit Hobday). According to Luke McCarthy, Racing Manager and Head Coach at the BKA, the partnership works well with the RYA providing access to sailors, clubs and coaches, while the UKSA, where the BKA is based up Cowes’ Medina River, offers excellent facilities, including 250 beds, plus workshops, conference rooms, berthing for boats, etc. “It works as a genuine partnership both from a contribution financially but also the resources at each end as well.” The aim of the BKA is to get sailors, aged between 18 and 24 and from a wide variety of backgrounds, into top level yacht racing, via activities and tuition both on the water and ashore. This in turn prepares them to become either a professional or a top level amateur big boat sailor, or into the shore crew of a top team or into the marine industry. At present, the BKA has at its disposal three J/80s, David Aisher’s J/109 Yeoman of Wight and the Niklas Zennstrom-owned Farr 45, Kolga and they have previously campaigned