The Cadet Pathway has been designed by the UK National Cadet Class Association (UKNCCA) to provide a structured development programme for young Cadet sailors to progress through the class. It has four levels:
- Squadron training is usually run at each sailing club that has a Cadet Squadron. It is often run on a regular weekend slot, and parents are invaluable in providing logistics, coaching and other support to make these sessions work well. For some, there is also the opportunity to take part in a regular race at the weekend, either as part of their Club’s normal handicap race, or perhaps in a specific Cadet class race run after training. These give you an opportunity to compete in a series of races – winning is all about consistency!
- Open training is arranged by the UKNCCA during the low season to provide sailors with an opportunity to take part in structured coaching over a weekend. External RYA approved coaches are used, and sailors from across the country will come to a venue that is selected to provide a good and safe training location. These will vary so sailors get to experience different conditions – eg tidal, restricted water, flat water, and so on.
- National Junior Squad and National Squad are two selective squads for those sailors who are ready for more intensive training and development. Selection is through two consecutive events in September each year, also marking the start of the Cadet season. The NJS is run by the RYA and aims to take on between 6 and 10 boats each year, with the helm being under 15. The National Squad is run by the UKNCCA and aims to have a similar number of boats, but has no age restriction. This allows the top boats in the country to have a series of dedicated training weekends where their RYA-approved coaches will take them through a comprehensive training programme that is tailored to their development requirements.
- World Championship Team is the ultimate goal for the Cadet sailor – the opportunity to represent their country and take on the best Cadet sailors from around the world! Making it into the World Team is very competitive, with selection usually done through 18 races spread over three separate selection event weekends. There are usually only 7 places available for each nation (10 are available when the Worlds is in the Southern Hemisphere). There are bespoke training events for the Worlds Team, to prepare them for a heightened level of competition, and to complete to bonding of sailors to form part of the British Sailing Team.
The Cadet Pathway:
- is progressive, so each level builds on the one before. Sailors will find an increased amount of challenge, and greater support and development, at each new level. The coaches that will support and develop sailors at Open and Squad training events will often be ex-Cadet sailors who are now cutting their teeth at higher levels of competition, and the training will cater for a variety of abilities. But if you make it through to World Championship team, the coaching is more focussed with a higher coach to sailor ratio; the techniques and skills being taught are in depth and sophisticated; and the level of competition is high.
- has a degree of selection, so sailors are required to compete for places at the higher levels. And there are fewer places available the higher you go. Squadron training and Open training is open for all to take part in. But participation in the National Junior Squad and the National Squad is through selection on ability. And being part of the World Championship team – ie representing your country as part of the British Sailing Team – is through a tougher selection process.
- above squadron level, is RYA approved, using RYA qualified coaches. This means the training sailors receive in the different stages of their Cadet career is complementary, and will build from one level to another. It also means our coaches can have confidence that Cadet sailors have been taught certain basic principles in a way that they can build on in more advanced training.
- allows sailors to set their own goals for the season, to match their level of experience and ability. For example, the most experienced sailors may be seeking a podium place in competitions, but a new helm may set themselves targets of taking part in open training events and learning how to mix it with others on the start line.
The Cadet Season
The Cadet Season starts in late September, with the Inland Championships being held at a large inland body of water (such as Grafham or Rutland). This is a standalone competition over a weekend which the UKNCCA runs. A regatta fleet start (for those new to helming and racing Cadets) is usually provided. The winner gets to be known as the Inland Champion for that year. The event recognises that Cadet Squadrons sail on a variety of waters, with the biggest difference being between tidal and non-tidal. Prizes are awarded, similar to the Nationals (but at a lesser scale!)
This is usually followed the weekend after by the British Youth Sailing Regional Junior championships (formerly known as ‘the Zones’) which is run by the RYA and which the Cadets are but one class amongst many, such as Optimists, Toppers, Laser 4.7s and Fevas. For this reason, there’s no regatta fleet start – everyone has to sail off the same start. As with the Inlands, there’s a winner and prizes for this one too.
Both the Inlands and the Regional Junior Championships are standalone events open to any UKNCCA member to enter. The social side can be good too, with parents helping out on the water and ashore, and there’s usually several group meals on the Saturday evening too.
Late Autumn – Winter – early Spring
The results from these two events are one of the factors used by the UKNCCA and RYA to select sailors for the National Junior Squad (NJS) and the National Squad. Sailors need to apply for a squad place to be considered – it’s not automatic.
Each Squad will have around 5 or 6 weekends of coach-led training at different venues around the country to improve their core sailing skills, including new techniques and race management skills. It works out at about one weekend in four, and avoids school holidays.
The UKNCCA also runs Open Training. Open Training is, as the name suggests, open to any UKNCCA member to take part in, and the level of training is pitched at those who are not yet ready for full Squads, but will benefit from more focussed training than they might get at their local squadron.
The UKNCCA carefully juggles venues and timings to provide a balance between some ‘alone time’ for each group so they can focus on their own training without distraction, and times when both Squads and Open Training are all at the same venue at the same time. The latter builds relationships across the Cadet family, and also makes it easier for families who might have children in different groups.
In April and May there are three competitions, each run over a weekend. Each event is a standalone event in its own right, with prestigious trophies being awarded for the overall winner. Each event also has a regatta fleet start, so those that have been cutting their teeth in their Cadet get a chance to put it all into practice and aim for podium places in their fleet. When combined, these three events are better known as being the selector events for the World Team, and for many crews they represent what all the training over the winter has been building up to – a chance to represent their country in a World Championships.
As an International class, the Cadets (through the International Cadet Class Association) are allowed to hold a World Championships every year. In three years out of four, this will be in Europe and will be during the summer. In the fourth year, it will be in the Southern hemisphere (usually Argentina or Australia) and over the Christmas / New Year holiday. Each Cadet nation can only send a certain number of boats to the Worlds – 7, or 10 if they’re travelling to the other side of the world. Hence the selector series to select the best sailors for the team.
Each World Championships has two fleets – the Worlds fleet, and the Promotional Fleet (known as the Promos). The latter is open to anyone to take part in, and offers a chance for any Cadet sailor to experience international competition for real. Bigger start lines, different courses, Team GBR kit, parade of flags, making international friends – it’s a wonderful experience for any young person regardless of how they perform. And Team GBR tends to hold its own internationally – Jamie Harris was World Champion in Argentina in 2016, and Charlotte Videlo was third in Germany in 2018, with most of the top ten in the Promo fleet that year being filled by GBR boats.
The Nationals is the flagship event that the UK Cadet Association runs each year. Held during the summer, it is the one event that all Cadets should aim to do! Usually held in a lovely seaside location (think Abersoch or Brixham) the racing is close and competitive for both the two main fleets and the regatta fleet, with some serious silverware up for grabs (a testament to the heritage of the class). Alongside the racing, both parents, sailors and non-sailing siblings enjoy a good social programme, with beach games, barbecues, parents races, Pimms parties and the odd Gala dinner. The Nationals also marks the point where some sailors move on from the class, into bigger dinghies and new challenges. A few tears have been known to be shed when the departing sailors take their bow, having crewed and helmed in the class for, in some cases, up to 8 years. Lifelong friends will have been made during that time, and they will sail together beyond our class.
All year round
Scattered throughout the year are Open Meetings. These are standalone events hosted by a Cadet Squadron where other Cadet sailors are invited to come and take part in a short competition on that Squadron’s waters. These events can meet a number of needs in a young sailor’s season: a first experience of competing away from home, against other sailors or on different waters; perhaps an early tune-up event in a season which is aiming at a World Team place; or perhaps a chance to meet friends in the Cadet family that they haven’t seen for a while. Some are just one day; others are over a weekend; Waldringfield’s is over an entire week during the summer. Special mention must go to the near-legendary South Cerney open, where competitors camp by the water’s edge and indulge in good food, parents races, paddle boarding, live music and open fires. Oh, and the racing is excellent too.
Frensham Pond’s Open Training is also worthy of mention. Run over three weekends in October, Cadets are split into different groups according to ability and are trained by external coaches – so no matter whether you’re just starting out or an Olympian in waiting, you will get something out of it. The October date means it’s a useful way of bonding a new helm/crew partnership, and working out what areas you need to work on over the season.