Island Barn Reservoir Sailing Club teenager on winning Royal Yachting Association bursary

By Kate Pounds
April 16 2020, 14.25

A teenager from Streatham won a performance bursary after sailing to success in her 40-year-old boat.

Joanna Leake, 14, is one of a few young people to win an award from the Royal Yachting Association’s London and Southeast Youth Training Fund this year.

She explained achieving highly in regional and national Topper racing events and being selected for her regional squad in the last few years prompted her application for the award.

She said: “When I started it was just kind of messing around with friends.

“One of them persuaded me to go for the regional championships in 2018 and I was delighted when I came first girl.

“That changed it from a hobby to something more serious, I had to start training.”

Jo came first girl, and ninth overall, in the 2019 Topper Traveller Series too.

She added her £200 award contributed to a new wetsuit set and waterproof jacket.

Jo has been sailing with Island Barn Reservoir Sailing Club, East Molesey near Hampton Court, since she was eight.

She enjoys the social side best. She said: “Don’t do a sport because you want to do well in it, do it because it’s fun.”

Until August 2019, Jo sailed a 40-year-old Topper, bought from a friend.

Although her new boat is more reliable and easy to set up, she explained she still uses the old boat and thinks it will keep going for ages.

Jonathan Leake, Jo’s dad, renovated the old boat.

He said: “When she did all this stuff it was the oldest boat on the circuit.”

Most racing boats are between 2 and 3 years old, he explained. He added: “There was always the risk it was going to break apart in a strong wind..

“They’re beautiful boats, take a lot of punishment and keep on going, and they’re cheap.”

RYA bursaries are designed to support young sailors with their development.

Mr Leake coaches at IBRSC, he explained sailing can be financially very accessible. He said: “Sailing clubs like Island Barne, run inland or by members, are very down to earth, they don’t charge too much and have lots of boats to loan out. That’s kind of the bedrock of the sport.”

He added: “The social side is probably more important than the sailing skills they are learning.”

The kids go away a lot together, and every Sunday at the club the kids in their toppers race all the adults.

Ben Kimmble, coaches freelance and for RYA, teaches Jo at IBRSC.  He said: “Although they are competing, I’ve never seen any unkindness there.

“It’s very much an everybody helps everybody kind of approach.”

He said week’s sailing course at £250 is a great opportunity for kids to meet others their own age and learn loads of different water sports, and cheaper than childcare.

John and Ben have set up online sailing training courses during lockdown.

There is a lot of theory that can be learned online at all levels, Ben explained.

Jo and her sailing friends keep in touch on Instagram, and use a virtual sailing app to play together. She explained she also works out everyday before breakfast to keep her fitness up.

Many sailing meets have been cancelled for this year, plus squads, and Jo was hoping to get into the nationals.

She added other next steps for her include training to be an instructor.

John explained the club are arranging loads of catch up courses for the summer.

Related Articles