Opportunity Knocks for the IAKA Youth Team at Cowes Week

A new initiative to encourage youth sailors will be taking place at Cowes Week 31 July – 06 August.

This has been made possible by the collaboration of the Ian Atkins Keelboat Award (IAKA), administered by the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST), the SB20 Class UK and SportsBoatWorld. Having won the selection event at the Royal Southern YC July Regatta, the newly established IAKA Youth Team will be competing in the SB20 Class at Cowes Week, offering youth sailors the opportunity to race at the world-famous annual regatta.

“The main aim of the IAKA is to encourage transition from dinghy racing to yacht/keelboat racing for as many young sailors as possible,” commented Ian Atkins, who has enjoyed over 40 years of success, both working and racing in the marine industry. “Simon ‘Fumesy’ Russell was, until recently, the main man behind the SB20 Class, and also crewed for John Merricks and was closely involved in getting the SB20 class involved in the 2021 awards. Fumesy sadly passed away in January. The JMST, SportsBoatWorld and I, are delighted to see the award come to fruition.”

The IAKA Youth Team will be skippered by Patrick Whelan (19) who is studying at the University of Manchester. “I have previously raced Optimists, RS Fevas, 420s, 29ers, Fireflies and RS 200s, at club level, nationally and internationally. This has taken me to exiting new venues such as Santander, Spain and Medimblik in the Netherlands,” commented Patrick. “Racing at the largest regatta of its kind, as a youth team, in a high performance SB20 keelboat, is an incredibly exciting opportunity.”

The IAKA Youth Team includes Patrick’s sister Annabel Whelan (20) who was part of the British Keelboat Academy and is currently studying at Exeter University. Alex Hamel (18) is currently studying at Cardiff University and is a member of the British Youth Sailing Squad. She has raced in Optimist, Tera, Feva, Spitfire, Nacra 15 and won the Hobie Waves during the final of the 35th America’s Cup. Gerard Cloke-Brown (20) is currently studying at the University of Manchester and has been sailing with skipper Patrick for six years in team racing events. Gerrard is also Treasurer of the university sailing club.

RYA Director of Racing, Ian Walker, is a double Olympic Silver Medallist and winning skipper of the Volvo Ocean Race. Ian is a founding trustee of the JMST, and a leading voice in the promotion of youth sailing. Ian sent this message to the IAKA Youth Team from Enoshima Japan, the sailing venue for the XXXII Olympic Games.

“Best of luck to the winners of the Ian Atkins Award,”  commented Ian Walker. “I remember that year after year Cowes Week paid a really important role in my transition from dinghies to keelboats, including being lent a boat during my university years. Cowes Week is a fantastic opportunity for young sailors to get experience on keelboats. If I was to give the IAKA Youth Team some advice for this year, it is really important to be organised; get to know the course and especially work on your tidal calculations because at Cowes Week, the tide is often king. I hope you get some good breezes, I love Cowes Week and the SB20 is a fantastic boat and I wish you the very best of luck for the racing.”

Up to 15 races are scheduled for the SB20 Class for Cowes Week. For the latest news, pictures and more from the IAKA Youth Team, tune into the John Merricks Sailing Trust Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/jmst.uk

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