25-year-old Kent sailor, Harriet Averns has been named as the recipient of the RYA Yachtmaster® of the Year award for her exceptional demonstration of sailing skills during her RYA Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence exam.
Harriet was presented with the prestigious trophy by Richard Falk, RYA director of training and qualifications at Trinity House in London.
She said: “I could not believe it when I found out! I really struggled with my confidence and believing in myself in the lead up to the exam, but now that it has sunk in it has given me a massive boost.”
Richard Falk added: “In most years more than 3,000 people from around the world undertake the exam for the RYA Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence and, as always, the calibre of successful candidates in 2020 was extremely high. To be selected as the best is an incredible achievement and one Harriet should be extremely proud of.”
Harriet started sailing with the Ocean Youth Trust when she was at school. An RYA Competent Crew course and taking part in the Tall Ships Race in the Baltic confirmed her love of all things outdoors and on the water. Having planned to go to university to study International Business, Harriet’s plans all changed when she was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and had to leave school early.
She began researching alternative career pathways and, once recovered, soon signed up for a ‘Zero to Hero’ Watersports Instructor course which led her to three summer seasons in the Mediterranean teaching windsurfing, windfoiling, dinghy sailing and powerboating. With aspirations to take the next steps in her career on the water, Harriet received a grant through UKSA’s Milo Hanlon Bursary scheme and completed the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence in 2020.
After completing her exam Harriet volunteered for a non-profit marine conservation organisation. Working alongside her partner Luke, she then returned to the Mediterranean in 2021 to run flotilla holidays in Croatia and is looking forward to progressing further in the marine industry in the future.
Harriet said: “The marine industry enables you to travel to corners of the world you would not have otherwise known existed and there are so many different avenues you can go down. I love the way being on the water brings people confidence, but it is also very humbling with endless learning opportunities and appreciation for the environment.”
In the nomination for the award, Harriet’s RYA Yachtmaster Examiner, Steve Morgan, said: “Harriet was one of those candidates who was a joy to examine. Her experience as a watersports instructor had obviously taught her a lot about wind awareness and it was a joy to see her doing things that much more experienced sailors do not. Her best feature was simply the calm professionalism – everything I gave her to do she did calmly and competently with no fuss.”
To start your journey, or to learn more about RYA training courses and qualifications, visit www.rya.org.uk/training.
To find out more about the RYA Yachtmaster qualification, visit www.rya.org.uk/training/certificates-of-competence.