- The Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship national final winners in 2015 were presented with brand-new RIBs for their clubs.
- ‘Many of the kids who compete in the Championship go on to contribute hugely to their clubs as volunteers and in many other ways, which is fantastic to see.’
- If you start training them from eight years old, children are more receptive and develop key skills earlier.
Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship Turns 15
PBR reflects on the success of the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship as a vehicle for bringing new talent into the sport of powerboating as it celebrates its 15th anniversary.
As Britain’s leading programme for introducing kids to powerboats and training them to be safe, proficient drivers and excellent boat handlers, the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship is this year celebrating its 15th anniversary. With the emphasis on swift, efficient and safe manoeuvring, the skills developed through the programme are a great way for youngsters to experience the thrill of racing while at the same time becoming capable powerboat drivers.
With the 2016 regional heats set to blast off in May, a new wave of young powerboaters from across the country have the chance to emulate past competitors and champions, as they battle it out on the water for one of the coveted places at the national final. Heats will take place in all 10 of the RYA regions and home countries, with the winners in each age category (8–12 and 13–16) then going on to compete at the national final held at the Southampton Boat Show in September.
First created in 2000 by RYA Powerboat Projects Manager and Event Director Andrew Norton to offer children from the age of eight a fun, safe and enjoyable way of honing essential skills, the Championship has proven to be a huge success during the following 15 years. With around 400 children participating in its first year, by 2015 the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship had more than 5,000 people competing in club heats and regional finals, with 27 youngsters across both age categories going on to contest the national final.
Andrew says: ‘Some clubs would only allow people aged 16 and older to handle RIBs, but that is the wrong way to do it. If you start training them from eight years old, children are more receptive and develop key skills earlier. We came up with a really simple course containing elements of the RYA Powerboat Level 1, but it was against the clock, which made it fun and added a competitive edge.’ Andrew also praised the work of the organising team behind the competition, many of whom have been involved from the start.
Remarkably, the current Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship Event Manager, Tom Busfield, began his involvement with the competition as a competitor in 2002. Having reached four national finals by 2007, Tom then became a regional event organiser, before moving to his current role in 2013. Andrew believes Tom’s progress, alongside the many other graduates of the programme who now organise events and coach current competitors, is testament to the long-term value of the Honda Youth RIB Championship. ‘Tom works incredibly hard in this role, and is really good at encouraging the kids who take part,’ he enthuses. ‘All of the volunteers put in a tremendous amount of effort, and it really is worthwhile when you see the end results, not just immediately after but years down the line. Many of the kids who compete in the Championship go on to contribute hugely to their clubs as volunteers and in many other ways, which is fantastic to see.’
A number of previous competitors have gone on to achieve significant success in powerboat racing, including former champions Jordan Muckles and Steve Curtis. Having claimed the Honda Youth RIB national title in 2007, Jordan has gone on to become one of the foremost young powerboat racers in the UK. In recent years, Jordan has racked up a succession of national and world titles in various disciplines, including the 2013 GT30 British Championship. He now races in Formula 4 while training as an electrical apprentice, and hopes to be able to pursue racing full-time in the future.
‘I got spotted when I was out driving my dad’s fishing boat,’ recalls Jordan. ‘From there I’ve gone on to win the Honda Youth RIB title and three world gold medals in Formula Future in Liverpool. I’m lucky to be where I am now. If it wasn’t for my experiences with events such as the Honda RYA Youth RIB competition, I wouldn’t be competing in international events. Racing powerboats has taught me responsibility and maturity, and everything I’ve done has come from it. I would never have seen myself where I am now, but being involved in powerboating has given me a great platform in every respect.’
Fellow former champion Steve Curtis now dedicates his time to helping stars of the future perfect their powerboating skills. Having started powerboating aged just six at Paxton Lakes, Curtis has since dedicated much time and effort to coaching youngsters in the Eastern region.
‘I started at Paxton Lakes when I was about six,’ says Steve. ‘We went for a drive and it felt really good and natural. From there I just kept practising and doing courses. If I’d never have done it, I wouldn’t have met so many friends or visited so many places – it’s done wonders for me. I’ve recently been coaching young sailors at Grafham Water, and for the last two years I have had kids on the water as young as eight doing powerboat training. Last year one of our kids made the national final, which shows how far we’ve come. The Eastern regional final was held at Grafham this year, which is something I’m really proud of making happen.’
The Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship national final winners in 2015 were presented with brand-new RIBs for their clubs. Max Mawer, 16, from Girton Sailing Club triumphed in the 13–16 age category, while Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club member Ollie Pirt won in the 8–12 group. Thanks to his victory, Max won a Highfield 460 RIB with a Honda BF50 engine for Girton SC. Of the prize, Max said: ‘I’m now hoping to be able to train younger people in the club, and it would be great to one day help some of them compete in the Honda RYA Youth RIB finals too. Taking part in the Championships during my teenage years has been a very enjoyable experience, and to be able to race powerboats safely is awesome!’
Ollie received a Honwave T40 RIB with a Honda BF20 outboard for his victory. He said: ‘I couldn’t have won the Championship without a lot of help. I’m going to do my safety boat course and begin my RYA Powerboat Instructor’s course next spring.’
The fast RIB will become part of the Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club safety boat fleet – a valuable asset to the club and crucial if the club is to attract more national sailing championships to the area in 2016.
Special thanks to Championship sponsors Honda and Highfield.
For more information about the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship visit www.rya.org.uk/go/hondayouthrib.