His Olympic ambitions may have to go on hold for a few years but 12-year-old Billy Vennis-Ozanne has made a flying start in becoming the RS Tera Sport 2012 world champion.
The Hill Head racer took the title in a hard-fought regatta on Lake Iseo in Italy, successfully fending off strong competition from a 40-strong international fleet.
‘In the practice I came first, then in the first race I came 21st and I was kind of wondering “what happened there?”,’ he said.
‘My results went from bad to pretty consistent, then I had another bad one, then into the top three – it was just a case of “get out there and win”.’
True to that statement of intent, Vennis-Ozanne finished his regatta in style – with three wins and a third place in the last four races of the 10-race series.
Able to discard his opening 21st place – and a later 17th spot – he took the title by a single point from South African rival Georgou Divaris.
‘Winning was a really big step up for me,’ said Vennis-Ozanne, who came third in the UK Championships in the run-up to the worlds.
‘The standard was really, really high. My aim had been to get into the top five but a couple of days in it was like ‘‘hello, I can actually win this – go for it’’. So I did.’
Vennis-Ozanne, a student at Crofton School in Stubbington, moved from London with his family seven years ago and despite having no background in sailing, soon began racing from the nearby Hill Head Sailing Club.
His success is all the more remarkable as he had to undergo open heart surgery when he was only two weeks old. While he is as fit and healthy as any other 12-year-old – he will be monitored by doctors at Guy’s hospital in London until adulthood.
Meanwhile, with a possible Olympic future in mind, the 49er class has caught the eye of Vennis-Ozanne and his sailing coach, Gosport-based Mike Lee.
The fact one of the youngster’s sailing heroes, Lee-on-the-Solent’s Alain Sign, is an established world class 49er racer only confirms his likely trajectory. Rio’s too soon, but a star is on the rise.