SIXTEEN year old Becki Couch, from Chirnside, is on her way to becoming one of the best qualified teenage sailors in Scotland thanks to Berwickshire High School, Ocean Youth Trust, and of course her own hard work and dedication.
Like many before her, as a Berwickshire High School S1 pupil Becki went on her first Ocean Youth Trust Scotland trip in 2007 - but it has been far from being a ‘one off’ and Becki has rarely been off the water since.
In the same year she also started sailing at the Whiteadder Sailing Centre as an after-school activity and still goes there once or twice a week, but as an assistant instructor now rather than a pupil.
Now, Becki has been selected as one of 12 young Scottish sailors to take part in an Ocean Youth Trust Young Leaders Development Programme, which will gain her yet more sailing qualifications and see her well on her way to becoming a skipper by the age of 21 if she chooses to continue. Becki already has her Royal Yachting Association Power Boat Level 2; her RYA assistant dinghy instructor qualification; and first aid and sports mentoring courses with Scottish Borders Council.
Over the next 12 months Becki will continue working with Eyemouth and Berwickshire High School pupils in her role as assistant instructor, and during the summer holidays she also helps there with groups of children and adults; is set to do her Bosun’s training with OYT in May; is due to take her dinghy instructor qualification in September; and the highlight of the year will undoubtedly be the challenging ten day sea voyage on the OYT’s ‘Alba Explorer’ - a 72-foot round the world challenge yacht - that will help the youngsters learn essential seamanship skills, teamwork and develop their determination and motivation to succeed.
Becki said: “I am really looking forward to being part of this programme. It is going to be a fantastic learning experience sailing to amazing places with an organisation I think is absolutely fantastic and as a team I’m sure will achieve great things together.
“The Challenge Voyage to the Faroes is a once in a life time experience and I’m so pleased I’ve been selected,
“I can’t wait to take part in the adventure that I’m sure will lead on to a great future with the OYT Scotland.”
Last weekend Becki took part in an OYT training seminar at Stirling University - with a short break to travel to Falkirk to compete in the Scottish National Cross Country Championships where she won a bronze.
While at Stirling she learnt to recognise the difficulties faced by groups of blind youngsters by working with visually impaired youngsters on board a vessel and also completed the ‘Games with Aims’ course which involves youth based activities on the yacht.
Completion of the young leaders development programme will move Becki up to being a watch leader, taking responsibility for one of the two groups of youngsters on board at any one time.
Paying tribute to Becki for her achievements dad Neil, who is now a RYA dinghy instructor himself and was named RYA’s Volunteer of the Year 2011, acknowledges the role paid by her school, Berwickshire High.
“On the Scottish Borders side of things there has been a lot of turbulence and the loss of outdoor activity instructors.
“The fact that Becki got these opportunities through the school has been absolutely brilliant,” he said.
“Our family got into sailing after Becki went on her first OYT Scotland trip in 2007, and in the same year she started sailing at the Whiteadder Sailing Centre as an after school activity.”
A OYT spokesperson said: “Residential voyages aboard OYT Scotland’s fleet of yachts provide a uniquely powerful and extremely effective environment for the personal development of young people. Voyages are genuinely demanding and often unpredictable, requiring a high degree of interaction and teamwork.
“The YLDP harnesses the enthusiasm and talent of twelve past crew members. It provides hard and soft-skills training and a challenge voyage during which the young people train to become Watch Leaders while harnessing their skills in sailing, youth work, teamwork and leadership.
Applications for the 2012 programme are now closed. Anyone interested in joining the Young Leaders Development Programme for 2013 should visit www.oytscotland.org.uk or call 01475 722 722.