Hill Head star relishing national opportunity

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It has been a huge year for young sailor David Saunders.

The 15-year-old, from Whiteley, started competitive sailing just a year ago and has already won a coveted spot on a national youth squad.

Saunders will join 11 other talents in honing their skills at racing 11-foot topper boats over the winter months.

And he can’t wait to begin the International Topper Class Association training which will be excellent preparation for next season, which starts in April.

‘We will train with the best coaches in the country,’ he said.

‘It involves fitness and physio training and everything needed to get to the very top level of sailing.

‘It’s the very best training I am able to get in my age group.’

But it’s been a tough path to the top for Saunders.

He spends at least six hours on the water each weekend as well as making time to study theory during the week.

The teenager sails at the Hill Head Sailing Club in Fareham.

He has two brothers and a sister, all of whom have tried their hand at the sport – but none race competitively.

‘My grandparents always enjoyed cruising sailing and occasionally we would go out for holidays on their yacht, but we had never raced or anything,’ said Saunders.

‘We always used to drive past the Hill Head club and talk about joining and, after nine years, finally we decided to sign up.’

He added: ‘There are so many different tactical decisions you have to make and many of them can make the difference between an all right sailor and a really good sailor.’

Saunders’ best result to date was 36th in the National Championships in Pwllheli, Wales – as light winds favoured smaller sailors.

He has clocked up the miles competing all across the UK.

And also raised money for the Evelina Children’s Heart Organisation in September, as he joined Billy Vennis-Ozanne and others in sailing from Hill Head to Cowes before cycling to the Needles and back.