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Young skippers follow their dream

This year’s rally will see several young sailors fulfilling their ambition to skipper their own boat across the Atlantic with the ARC. 11 skippers aged under 30 are amongst the fleet, adding ocean miles and offshore experience to their sailing CVs. Despite different circumstances, they have been able to take the helm of boats, either owned by themselves or family, to set off to Saint Lucia sailing with friends, spouses and family with the great responsibility of being in charge of the boat’s passage. The youngest skipper in the international fleet is British 18-year old Louie Neocleous who will sail his father’s 55ft yacht Julia in ARC 2017. 25-year old Rebecca Tilly on Talulah Ruby II, completing the crossing with three good friends, is the youngest female skipper this year. With less than a week to go until start day, both are eager to get started on their 2,700nm transatlantic adventure as skipper of their respective boats.

Young British sailor, Louie Neocleous - who will be using the crossing to qualify for his Yachtmaster Ocean certificate - has already notched up over 10,000 nautical miles during the last couple of years, since leaving school at 16 when he realised sailing full time was an option as a professional career. This won’t be his first ARC, as he sailed as crew last year on board Angel’s Share. However, this will be his first transatlantic as skipper of five crew members, including his father and two young 18-year old friends.

Louie skippered Julia all the way down from Porto in Portugal to Las Palmas and will now take the helm for the crossing, something he is very much looking forward to. Although sailing in the ARC Cruising Division, he has skippered the boat over the last two RORC racing seasons, including this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race and is keen to get the best out of his father’s Beneteau Oceanis 55, which was bought with the aspiration to sail around the world and help Louie gain experience to build for his Yachtmaster qualification in mind.

“I didn’t realise it was an option for me as a career once I’d finished by GCSE’s, but my father encouraged me to go into something I loved; so for the past two years I’ve focused on my career in sailing,” explained Louie. “I would say to other young crews wanting to work towards being a skipper ‘Go for it!’. You don’t have to own a boat to gain your miles; it’s all about networking. It will be different doing the crossing as skipper, but I can’t wait. Last year I learnt a lot at the ARC seminars and during the crossing. The crew taught me how to cook and that’s been a great thing. I’ve told my two young friends that they need to do the same for this crossing as we will share the responsibilities.”

“As a young skipper, it is always going to be a little difficult at first, particularly with an older and sometimes more experience crew, but I take my skipper role, including safety and my responsibilities seriously, and have gained the respect of the whole crew, including my Dad. I will be competitive and can’t wait to take Julia safely across to Saint Lucia where we will spend time in Antigua and take part in the Caribbean regatta season,” continues Louie.

Another inspiring young skipper who has definitely gained respect from her crew (and family) by her never-doubting her goal to skipper her own boat across the Atlantic, is 25-year old Rebecca Tilly on Talulah Ruby II. After working and rebuilding an old boat in Gibraltar to take her to the Caribbean, she decided it was not fit for purpose, but she is lucky enough to finally be fulfilling her dream on her family-owned Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 49DS, Talulah Ruby II.

Rebecca, who says she is a very safety conscious skipper, will be sailing with three friends, all in their mid-twenties. Sophie Hindley and Rebecca both caught the sailing bug whilst at school, sailing in their teenage years on the historic 56' gaff-rigged 1913 pilot cutter Jolie Brise. Over several years they gained experience and Rebecca even completed a long passage on board from Canada to Ireland. For the past few years, she’s been highly focused on making her dream to cross in her own boat come true. Skippering a modern boat has been a steep learning curve for Rebecca, but she’s easily got to grips with it:

Jolie Brise awoke my passion for sailing,” explains Rebecca. “She’s a beautiful boat and I just loved being at sea and when I did the transatlantic it really cemented in my mind that the place that I felt comfortable and happy was the ocean. I really loved it. The ARC has been fantastic all round and helped me focus on everything, and I am so glad we are taking part.”

Schoolfriend Sophie Hindley, who went on to teach in Bucharest says: “I think it’s so inspiring and impressive what Becca has done and what she has achieved. She has done it by herself and was so determined. Obviously she has had her parents support, but she’s been so passionate about it that I want to use this experience to inspire the 12-year olds that I teach. They will be following the ARC too and I want to inspire them to do the same thing and to know that they too can achieve such dreams.”

“When you think it’s possible, when you believe it’s possible, it becomes possible!” is Rebecca’s motto.