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Nurturing your talented offspring!

Part two of this fascinating insight into supporting your talented offspring, this week we meet The Yelland's an extraordinary family, bursting at the seams with windsurfing skills! It is a trio of talented offspring in this family, in this blog I chat to mum Michelle Yelland, about where it all started for her family, at the beginning a military wife, a working mum of three and from her example of strength she and her husband have nurtured and grown three strong, independent children. They have all found inspiration through the power of windsurfing and how in the beginning a new job took them all down a path of discovery, challenge and ultimately an opportunity that has become a way of life, opening up doors around the world and cementing this families appreciation of what windsurfing has given them.

By Emma Nicholson.

How did it all start for your children? How did you first introduce them to windsurfing and how old were they?

Michelle said: "Clay was 12, Lilia was 10 and Sullie 9 years old. I was starting a new job at The Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA), but what I hadn't accounted for was how close it was to the Easter holidays. Chris was away at sea and so I was lacking on childcare, so I thought, I know they can learn to sail. I booked them in with the Andrew Simpson Centre and they did have a fab week, but Sullie had kind of checked out on the second day with a split lip, he stood the wrong side of the boom and got smacked in the face, Lilia and Clay managed to hook their boom through another young girls buoyancy aid and lift her straight out of her boat dragging her through the water, so I was getting the feeling it wasn't really for any of them.

"Every time I nipped down in my lunch hour they were staring at the windsurfers. I had the realisation they were in the wrong club when one afternoon I walked around the corner to see Clay oblivious to the fact he was being asked a question by his instructor because he was in absolute awe watching Matt Barton pump his RS:X sail and it was making that awesome sound. It was then I nipped into The Official Test Centre (OTC) to see if they had availability for three for the second week of Easter.

"They did their RYA windsurfing level one and two, then joined the OTC's T15 club. They couldn't get enough of it and made the best of friends there and here we are six years later with the most awesome adventures behind us with the most amazing people. All three having travelled to most of the waterways in the UK, competed in Europe and Asia. Never venturing far from where it all started, Clay now works at the OTC as a windsurf and wing instructor, Sullie is there doing his Assistant Instructor and Lilia is an OTC Team Rider.

"Honestly windsurfing has brought the best of times for us as a family. We have been on a journey with our children that I never could never have imagined. We have made the best of friends, had the best of evenings sat around together as a group camping, or sat on the shore sharing the experience of watching all our kids launch as they head out to compete at internationals. No words really can describe that feeling."

"Honestly windsurfing has brought the best of times for us as a family. We have been on a journey with our children that I never could never have imagined."

When did they go from windsurfing as a hobby to competing on a National and international level?

Michelle said: "I don't think windsurfing was ever a hobby, they went straight in to competing. After completing their RYA level two Tris mentioned there was a friendly competition called the T15 Interclub Series at Axebridge the following weekend and invited the kids to go, they were nervous, but also so excited.

"The OTC and the Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club supplied all the kit so we just had to get ourselves there. Two out of the three came back with T15 medals and that was it, the two that got a medal wanted another and the one that didn't, wanted one.

"All three then went on to do all the T15 Inter Club series and that's where we heard about the RYA Regional Junior Champs in Paignton, which they attended. From that they were then selected for the RYA Zone Squad, they then began training regularly with the Techno Class Association and from that began the national and international competitions."

"I don't think windsurfing was ever a hobby, they went straight into competing."

The cost and the time you have had to invest when they were younger, what advice would you give to other parents about to set out on the same journey?

Michelle said: "It is hard to relate the expense, I won't lie, it has been expensive, but we have three children all doing the same sport and you can't put a price on the fun, and just life experiences they/we have all had. Who needs a new kitchen and bathroom anyway, we are never there to use it, the new van and windsurf trailer brought way more joy to the family. Should they have taken up another sport at a high level then equally we could be spending the same.

"Mind you I was always really jealous of one of the school run mums, her two children played ping pong at a national level, we would both be there on a Friday afternoon outside the school, both of us with a four hour journey ahead of us, her parking up a little Fiat Panda and two sports bags on the parcel shelf, ping pong bats in the end pockets and then there was me, with a long wheel base ford transit and equally long windsurf trailer packed up to the hilt taking up three parking spaces much to the annoyance of others.

"Before windsurfing we always had little breaks away, now we still get those breaks away but they have a purpose and that's to get the family to training or to competitions.

What I would say is if you find yourself on the same journey and your child loves competing, but time or money is a restricting factor just don't feel pressured to be at everything, there really is no need. We would always sit down together with the RYA Youth Year Planner and the children would pick the training or competitions they definitely wanted to attend and if we made any of the others great if not, so be it.

"The weekends that we couldn't make, thanks to some great coaching advise the kids would use these to carry out kit maintenance to make sure it was all in good order ready for the next event. You feel guilty as a parent if they miss out, but you can't do everything. Also be ready for your parenting role to expand, you will become a loading and logistic transport manager, mobile catering unit and accommodation secretary. Be prepared to loose your dining room to a sail number application zone, repair shop and windsurf board holding area.

"Lastly your child will become very competent very quickly at rigging their kit, and you will not be allowed to touch it, fact. However, you will still be expected to carry it back to the sailing centre when they have washed up on the shore half a mile down the lake, and you can guarantee they will be nowhere to be seen when its time to load up to go home."

"You can't put a price on the fun, and just life experiences they/we have all had."

What has been your proudest moment from all your children’s amazing achievements?

Michelle said: "It's been fab to see them up there on the podium of course it has, all that training and dedication paid off and to see their faces, though our proudest moments have been when they have contributed back to the windsurfing community of their own accord.

"Three kids in the sport we've had alot, and I mean alot of good will given to us, we have done alot of taking whether that be borrowing kit, tips and advice from more experienced kids, parents digging around in their spares to help us out when we have had breakages, lending and giving us stuff we didn't know we needed, offers of help and guidance through the racing program and training and how it all worked, and of course we have had alot of help from the professionals, as in the team at the OTC to the RYA coaches and Class Associations and their coaches.

"So as parents I think we are at our proudest when I see or hear that my kids haven't forgotten that, and give back wherever they can."

"Our proudest moments have been when they have contributed back to the windsurfing community."

What do you think windsurfing has given your children?

Michelle said: "Everything! It's made them who they are. They have confidence and determination, they have physical and mental wellbeing, they have built strong friendships, not only in the UK, but internationally from competitions and training abroad.

"Although they sail solo they are team players, the windsurfing community are just always there for each other and so what ever life stresses are being carried on their shoulders as soon as they are sat in the rigging area putting their kit together it all gets forgotten.

"I would like to end this with a massive thank you to Tris and the team at the OTC. We have had our adventure because of you guys. I actually feel a bit emotional, because the OTC opened the doors to the last six years and have not only supported us with instruction, helped us with kit, but with competition can come pressure, and when the pressure of competition has gotten too much, they welcome us back and remind my children why they windsurf. The OTC Team dish out so much fun and laughter onshore and on the water, my lot get off their competition kit and just go and have an absolute blast winging, wave sailing, jumping on slalom kit, or they just go to the centre and hang out and we are eternally grateful for that."

"The windsurfing community are just always there for each other."

If you fancy learning or progressing your windsurfing skills, click on the link and who knows where your windsurfing will take you!

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