Connect to Windsurfing/Team 15/History T15
The Early Years of Junior Windsurfing
Gillian has been in post at the RYA since 1991. At the time the RYA Junior Windsurfing Scheme was in its infancy having been developed in 1988. Very few RYA training centres offered junior windsurfing tuition and very little windsurfing kit existed, which was suitable for children.
Whilst there were a few items on the market, often boards were too long, footstraps were set miles apart, rigs were adult size and small harnesses didnt exist. Junior equipment reviews, junior roadshows and the infamous national junior windsurfing rallies helped change all that. Higher level junior courses were developed whilst windsurfing manufacturers picked up on the need for more specific junior windsurfing equipment suitable for people with small hands and small legs! Junior clubs were starting to appear and junior windsurfing competition became established in a small way. The 1990s saw a lot of junior windsurfing development.
Nurturing grassroots competition
As we moved into the new Millenium, it was recognised that the feed into the RYA competition programme was weak with regard to windsurfing. Unlike the dinghy sailing world, windsurfing didnt stem from a club and racing culture. Racing was not embraced by young windsurfers and at the very mention of the word they would often turn and run in the opposite direction!
At a meeting in 2001 it was identified that the RYA needed a means to encourage more children into windsurfing competition. This was necessary to underpin the Olympic pathway and to ensure that windsurfing had future Olympic potentials coming up through the system. The outcome of the meeting was that a softly, softly approach was necessary linking learn to windsurf with learn to race and this needed a club environment to be successful. The existence of people with the correct skills to teach grassroots competition skills was another hurdle, which needed to be overcome.
Team15 is born!
Whilst en-route to a windsurfing festival in Weymouth, making slow progress towing the RYA mobile display unit, Gillian started mulling over these development needs. Could we successfully build new clubs? Was it possible for clubs to get a small team together and challenge other clubs? Could we brand them up with different coloured race vests so that teams were easily identifiable on the water – a bit like football teams afloat? And a name was needed to help promote the programme… Would clubs be able to get a team of 15 together; what if they were all aged 15 and under? 15 in a team all aged up to 15 - hey presto - Team15!
So thats how the programme got its name. The idea was taken to committee with the intention of running a pilot scheme for a year. The committee liked the Team15 concept a lot but felt we had no time to lose – so the programme was rolled out immediately and developed along the way. The promotional brand was developed as a priority and all RYA training centres and sailing clubs were invited to join the programme. T15 coaches were trained to support each club and T15 Competition Organisers were appointed to run the first inter-club challenges. The Team15 revolution had truly begun…
Team15 in the present day
Centres nationwide have embraced the Team15 initiative and continue to do so. Coaches are enjoying being part of the Team15 scene and find the experience extremely rewarding. Currently there are between 70-80 Team15 clubs with a large number participating in the inter-club challenges. Team sizes at the inter-club challenges continue to expand year on year, with many clubs hitting the full team of 15. The largest inter-club challenges to date have attracted 55 entrants and the largest fleet is quite often youngest age group, sailing on 3.5m sails.
The T15 National Championships (the Champions Cup - which only one club per zone qualifies for) attracts in the region of 100+ sailors. Many of the original Team15 children that joined the programme in 2001/02 are now instructors and T15 coaches themselves; a large number continue to compete but on the UKWA circuit having outgrown T15; whilst lots of children have progressed through to the RYA Zone and National Squad programmes and have represented the UK at European and World Windsurfing Championships, often taking podium positions and European & World Titles.