Posted: Tue, 27 Jun 2017 10:30
Oakham School's three-time National finalist, George Baxter, is hoping his experience can give him an edge as he bids to make it four grand final qualifications in a row with victory at the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship Midlands Area Final on Saturday 1 July.
Around 20 of the region's most skillful young powerboat drivers will do battle across two age groups – 8-12 and 13-16 years – at Staunton Harold Sailing Club in Derbyshire, with the winner of each sealing their place in the National finals at the Southampton Boat Show on Sunday 17 September.
Now in its 16th year, the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship is Britain's leading programme introducing kids to powerboats and training them to be safe, proficient drivers and excellent boat handlers. RIBs are light, manoeuvrable craft and the boats driven in the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship can hit speeds of up to 25mph.
George, now 14, clinched a hat-trick of East Midlands crowns in the 8-12 years age group from 2013 to 2015 to go head-to-head with the other regional champions at the Nationals in each of those years, narrowly missing out on the podium in finishing fourth on his last grand final outing two years ago.
And the Worksop lad returned to Southampton last year to represent his sailing club, Girton SC, in the perpetual Champion of Clubs trophy in the 13-16 years age group after the club won the right to contest the head-to-head against the 2016 champion thanks to George's club mate, Max Mawer, winning the 2015 national title.
With the East Midlands and West Midlands competitions having merged to form one Midlands Area event last year, George is now looking forward to seeing if he can repeat his 8-12 years feats in the older age-group.
He said: "I'd like to win the Midlands final, although I know the competition will be much harder competing against older drivers. Having been to three National finals before I guess I'm not as nervous as I used to be, which helps, and it has also been good to have a decent boat to practice in at Girton SC after Max's 2015 National title won the club a brand new RIB.
"I qualified for my first Nationals two years younger than the maximum age, but there is no guarantees I can do that again in the 13-16 years. I hope so but it really does depends on the competition. I always try to take the first round steadier then aim for a faster round the second time if I got it right the first time. I haven't had much time to practice this year so I'm hoping my previous experience will carry me through! I'm looking forward to it though."
With the emphasis on swift, efficient and safe manoeuvring, Honda RYA Youth RIB events see drivers compete in time trials around sets of marks with the fastest time over two rounds winning. Skills drivers have to demonstrate include slalom, stopping, reversing round a mark and a blast to the finish. Most importantly, it's so much fun.
Sponsored by Honda and Highfield, the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship sees the overall national champion in each age group win a Honwave T40 RIB with a Honda BF20 engine or a Highfield 460 RIB with a Honda BF50 engine for their club.
Steve Morris, Head of Power Equipment for Honda (UK), added: "We're pleased to continue our long and successful partnership with the RYA, supporting the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship in its 16th year. Honda and our boat partner, Highfield, are delighted to support the RYA in its endeavours to motivate and encourage young people to develop driving skills and to promote safe and responsible racing through this unique and exciting event."
For more information about the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship visit www.rya.org.uk/go/hondayouthrib
CONTENT & IMAGE SOURCE: Royal Yachting Association