Upton sailor James, 12, has eye on world championships

Grafham Sailor James Oakley.

Grafham Sailor James Oakley. - Credit: Archant

David Oakley can’t wait for the time he can sail his own boat again. He’s had “all his toys taken away” so he can act as a taxi driver for his sons James and Jack, but in truth doesn’t really mind since James has been covering himself in glory.

James came fifth in the RS Tera European Championships earlier this year and followed that with a superb second place in the Nationals on Derwent Reservoir, County Durham, over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The 12-year-old from Upton, who has been sailing since he was six, will have his eyes on the World Championships in Holland next year after another highly successful summer.

David said: “We know he’s got talent because he has a scholarship at the Royal Hospital School in Ipswich. What he is doing now is starting to fulfil that talent.”

Grafham Water Sailing Club members James and his 10-year-old brother Jack – who also sailed at the Nationals – faced testing conditions on Derwent Water.

“Gusts of 20 knots were happening throughout, along with long periods of no wind at all,” said David.

“It meant they were out for six hours one day and five the next. When you have 100 or so young sailors becalmed, they form little groups and start singing and joking just to pass the time.

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“The families, like us, watch from the shore as they cope with the calm and then quickly ensure they are focused for the next time the wind rises.

“All of James’s results were in the top 10 and it was incredibly close between him and the boy who won.”

James went on to finish second in the Eastern Championships at Brightlingsea, suggesting he has the consistency to maintain success.

Dad and mum will be hoping that quality will help him make an impact in Holland, although dad would rather count the days until the boys are old enough to cope for themselves.

David said: “We used to sail a GP14 as a family.

“It’s funny how quickly they outgrew that and wanted to go it alone. I know the feeling; I can’t wait to get back out on the water myself.”