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Tom impresses on water

PUBLISHED: 10:33 21 November 2008 | UPDATED: 07:47 01 August 2010

Excellent young sailor Tom.

Excellent young sailor Tom.

Bungay yachtsman Thomas Johnson's love of the water is in his blood.

The ten-year-old capped an impressive season in the Optimist class against older age group rivals with a stunning display in the national 'End of Season' championships held at Rutland Water.

Bungay yachtsman Thomas Johnson's love of the water is in his blood.

The ten-year-old capped an impressive season in the Optimist class against older age group rivals with a stunning display in the national 'End of Season' championships held at Rutland Water.

Tom posted two top-five finishes to end 22nd overall out of a fleet of 220 British and overseas competitors.

“I love the adrenalin rush of going really fast, surfing on the waves, spray everywhere,” says Tom. “It's scary but exciting all at the same time. I also get a real buzz out of racing, especially if I do well.

“My great grampa, who is 90, grew up on the River Blackwater in Essex and has raced there since the 1930s.

“My granny races Fireball dinghies and Dragons in France where she lives. Dad took me out in his Fireball when I was two. The next year he had a harness specially made so I could trapeze.

“I didn't really start helming until my granny bought my Optimist when I was eight. It helps to be a natural sailor if you want to become a top sailor. My gran would say a 'seat of the pants' sailor. Then you start to learn all the technical stuff to make you faster in a race situation.”

The Town Close House pupil even surprised himself at the national finale in the flat, calm conditions after a solid first day's racing.

“I had a good start and was heading for the first mark when I heard a voice say, 'you're in the lead, don't scuff it up now',” recalls Thomas. “I didn't really believe it until I had rounded the windward mark in first place. Then I nearly did scuff it up. I went the wrong way. I looked back to see the next boat, a Belgian, heading off in a different direction.

“Realising my mistake I changed course and managed to hang onto second. When I went alongside my coach's jib he was jumping up and down and all my mates cheered. It was great. Then in the next race, just to prove it wasn't a total fluke, I managed to get a fifth.”

Tom's lofty season-ending ranking is set to earn him a spot in the national junior squads (aged 12 and under) along with an invite to next summer's Irish nationals. The talented sailor has also qualified for special selection weekends that could lead to an international call up.

“Club sailing is surprisingly good value,” says mum Nicky. “But competing can and does become more expensive as you work up the fleet. The children have to have their own boats with a good sail which needs replacing at least every year or two.

“Specialist coaching also costs quite a lot but the biggest cost is the on going expenses of travel, accommodation, entry and training fees which all add up over the year.”

Companies or individuals interested in helping sponsor Tom can email him at IJoh177533@aol.com

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