Bringing sailing to young people from all backgrounds
The third week of July, like every year, the old port of Cowes on the Isle of Wight and the legendary Solent – the strait separating the island from the mainland, famous for its unique and challenging combination of winds and tides – has played host to Panerai British Classic Week. More than 50 classic boats set to join the racing, providing a breathtaking spectacle for onlookers.
In honour of its historic links to the sea, Officine Panerai has promoted classic sailing culture for many years through its sponsorship of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, the leading international circuit for these vintage craft. In 2007, the company also acquired and restored the Bermudan ketch Eilean. Built-in 1936 by the legendary Fife yard at Fairlie in Scotland, she is now the brand’s ambassador at vintage and classic boat rallies and regattas.
As part of the celebrations during this exciting week, the Italian luxury watchmaker, together with the Royal Yachting Association’s Onboard programme announced the winner of the first edition of the Panerai Challenger Trophy, designed to promote equal access to sailing for young people from all social and economic backgrounds.
Started in 2005, the OnBoard programme is giving over half a million young people in Britain the opportunity to try sailing and windsurfing over ten years. To date, over 600,000 OnBoard beginner sessions have been run across the country, with more than 68,000 young people taking up sailing or windsurfing on a regular basis.
Philippe de Saint-Lager, Panerai Brand Director UK, said: “We are delighted with the first edition of the Panerai Challenger Trophy. Our partners in the project, the RYA, received a great number of applications from all over the country. Narrowing it down to the finalists, and then choosing the winner was a hard task; each and every story was inspiring and showed how sailing has the power to positively impact young lives. Panerai has a strong link to the sea and meeting the new generation of talented sailors and seeing their potential was a great addition to the work we do through the sponsorship of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge.”
This year’s winner, 18-year-old Nicola Stockdale, sails at the Debdale Outdoor Centre in Manchester. As part of the Panerai Challenger Trophy, RYA OnBoard clubs and training centres across England were encouraged to nominate a young sailor who has overcome physical, economic or social challenges to achieve a significant milestone in sailing or windsurfing. Of the 40 entries received, Nicola Stockdale stood out to the judges as a key volunteer at the Debdale Outdoor Centre in Manchester, where she works every Saturday morning.
Over the last two years Nicola has spent more than 500 hours at the Debdale Outdoor Centre. She works with younger children, encouraging them to take up mentoring roles, and she has now acquired an assistant-instructor qualification, while also juggling her A-Level studies.
Nicola and the three runners-up were celebrated during the first of what will be an annual awards dinner at the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron. Ian Walker, one of Britain’s most successful sailors and the recipient of two Olympic silver medals, gave an inspirational speech congratulating the four finalists on their achievements in inspiring the next generation of sailors and windsurfers. At the end of the evening, Nicola was presented with the Panerai Challenger Trophy, created by acclaimed designer Russell Pinch, whose work is known for its celebration of simplicity of form, the purity of its uncluttered elegance and its emotional connection with the elements around us.
It was a wonderful evening, full of emotion and hope for the next generation of sailors. Nicola actually shed a little tear when receiving the Award:
“I’m shocked, there are 3 other people here who could have won the Award. Getting to know them over the past weeks has been brilliant –being an instructor myself, it is very inspiring to see these young kids and how they got through things with the help of sailing.”
As part of the prize, Panerai will provide Nicola and her sailing club with funding, demonstrating Panerai’s ongoing support towards the social and inclusive spirit of local sailing and windsurfing clubs. Nicola will receive £5,000 to support her sailing ambitions and her club, Debdale Outdoor Centre, will receive a fund of £10,000. The three runners-up will receive £2,500 each, and their clubs will each receive £5,000. During this 3-year initiative, Panerai has committed to making a total investment of £120,000 to demonstrate the sport’s accessibility and to inspire the next generation of sailors.