Young sailors from the south coast are using any means necessary to earn a trip to Lake Garda for the 2015 Topper World Championships.
Nine youngsters from John Elliot’s Topper Squad (JETS) are undertaking fundraising activities – such as car washing and cake sales – as they aim to raise the £5,000 needed to pay for entry, coaching, travel and accommodation for the event in Italy.
JETS is now in its fifth year, having initially been formed as a way of helping young sailors broaden their experience and knowledge through expert coaching and guidance.
The squad numbers 32 children in total, aged between eight and 16, from clubs along the south coast including Stokes Bay, Hill Head and Portchester.
JETS organiser Martin Kimberley believes the opportunities offered by the squad stretch far beyond racing.
‘Our focus is on getting youngsters who have started to sail but don’t know where to take it to push on to the next level,’ he said.
‘It’s not about the racing per se, it’s more about giving them an enjoyment for life and that’s the biggest success of it really.
‘One thing we aim for is to try to help the older sailors get their qualifications so they come back and help the squad as a coach.
‘Some become coaches, some go into the marine industry as engineers – it’s about keeping the passion going.’
Kimberley also had praise for the community spirit among the squad.
He said: ‘If you go to a national event aged 13 or 14, there’s 150 to 200 boats there and if you don’t really know anybody and don’t really know how it works, it’s daunting.
‘By bringing sailors from several clubs together, it transforms the whole experience and creates a support group.
‘So wherever they go they recognise someone who will always help.
‘It’s a whole team effort and everyone is expected to contribute.
‘Through winter training, we had a rota where someone bakes a cake each day for the kids when they leave the water and the cakes got more and more extravagant as the winter went on.
‘Without the parents, JETS wouldn’t work at all.’
Squad member Jake Bowhay, 14, has sailed with JETS for the past two years and hopes to reap the rewards in Lake Garda.
He said: ‘JETS bridges the gap between club sailing and the national training squad.
‘This year the training has been brilliant and our coach, Dave Cockerill, has persuaded us to aim for the world championships.
‘Doing these fundraising events shows we really want to go and we are really committed.’