The RYA Eastern Region competitors at this year’s national final of the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship at PSP Southampton Boat Show are previous double champion Steve Curtis and newcomer James Heys.
Steve (15), a member of Northern Exposure Rescue comes from Godmanchester, Cambs and James (11), a member of Island Yacht Club (hosts for the event) from Canvey Island, Essex, won their respective classes in this year’s RYA East regional final at Island Yacht Club on Saturday, 23 June.
They faced stiff opposition from 18 other young competitors from all over the Eastern Region as well as breezy and choppy water conditions. Steve won the senior age group and James the junior class.
The final was something of a family affair with James’ elder brother Lawson, who represented the region in last year’s national final, taking second in the older age group. Paxton Lakes SC fielded a brother and sister combination, Lewis and Sophie Redman-Baber and brothers Bobby and Andy Martin.
James is an all-round sportsman who plays cricket and rugby as well as some soccer for his school Castle View, Canvey and commented: 'My football dribbling stood me in good stead for the slalom part of the course. I had great fun doing the turns. I’m gobsmacked to have won, as this is the first season I’ve taken part.'
Steve, who has won the national championship twice before, at both junior and senior level is RYA East’s Honda Youth RIB Youth Ambassador. He started sailing at age six and is now an assistant sailing instructor at Paxton Lakes SC and holds his L2 Powerboat qualification. He joined Northern Exposure Rescue in 2010 and took part as a member of NER’s support fleet of RIBs at the Diamond Jubilee.
'Powerboating is a great buzz and I’m keen to encourage more youngsters to take it up,' he said.
'The standard of this event has grown considerably in recent years and though we couldn’t set any records because of the conditions I had to work very hard indeed to win my class. Wow!'
The Honda RYA Youth Rib Championship, sponsored by Honda and Ribcraft, is a National Championship in which 8-16 year old RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) drivers can demonstrate their boat handling skills in a race against the clock in the hope of winning a 4.8m Ribcraft or Honwave T40 for their club.
The 20 youngsters who reached the regional final came via area heats held at Paxton Lakes, (St Neots), Fishers Green SC, (Waltham Abbey), Ardleigh SC (Colchester) and Stubbers Activity Centre, Ockenden.
The three top places in each of the two age groups go forward to the regional final and the two winners go forward to represent the region at Southampton.
Martin Dobbs, IYC’s rear commodore motoring who instructs the competitors at the club, took the hot seat in the older age group boat. 'It was certainly bumpy out there and none of the competitors could really go flat out. The skills demonstrated across both age groups are extremely high. I urge all of them to keep it up but slow down a bit and improve their accuracy.'
Nigel Mower, the regional Honda RYA Youth RIB coordinator commented: 'It’s been a fantastic day. Everyone has enjoyed themselves, had fun and improved their skills. It was also great to see one of the region’s leading Honda Marine dealers, Seamark Nunn come along and support us. They are keen to get more involved which can only strengthen the competition.
'Plans are already in motion for next year’s competition and we are in discussions to have a further area heat at Lowestoft next year,' he added.
David Hodgkinson, Marketing Communications Manager for event sponsor Honda said: 'Honda strives to be 'a company that society wants to exist', and so as a major manufacturer of engines and inflatables we are delighted to be sponsoring the 11th year of the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship. Inspiring and encouraging young people to discover and pursue a passion for boating, is as important as giving them the skills to do so in a safe and responsible way. We are proud together with the RYA to be doing both through this unique competition'. Honda Youth RIB website