Lucy Gates has sailing down to a science

Lucy Gates started sailing at the age of nine at Upton House School and has since gone from strength to strength. Now she sails every weekend whilst in her second year studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge University

Q. When did you start sailing and what do you like about it?

I started sailing when I was nine during the summer holidays with a friend from Upton House School and I immediately loved it. 

Over the next two years I went on many training courses, started sailing nearly every weekend and first started racing when I was 10. I belong to Queen Mary Sailing Club in Sunbury.

I spent two years in the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) South East Zone Squad. There is a series of qualifiers and the best sailors in each region in the UK are offered places in the regional squads.

In my first year in the Zone Squad I spent quite a lot of time capsized. I was the youngest in the squad at 10 years old and lots of the other sailors were 14, so I had a real disadvantage in strong winds as I was really small. 

However, I got bigger and better and in my second year in Zone Squad I spent a bit more time learning to sail faster, rather than how to stay upright!

Then I got an invitation to join the National Intermediate Junior Squad and I achieved my ultimate goal of a place in the National Junior Squad. As it is a national squad, I met lots of new friends from all over the country. 

There were 24 people in my squad and we were backed by four really good coaches as well as physiotherapists and nutritionists.

Aged 14, I moved from Toppers to Laser Radials. This is the Olympic-class ladies single-handed boat. I represented GBR at the Laser Youth World Championships in Poland which was a fantastic experience. I also enjoy yacht racing and take part in races in these bigger boats too. I took part in a race from Cowes to France and back, which was amazing. 

I spent the last three summer holidays working as a sailing instructor, which has been a fantastic opportunity to share my skills and enthusiasm for sailing, as well as earn some money doing what I love!

I would recommend sailing to anyone and encourage them to have a go, so long as they don’t mind getting wet. You make lots of friends from all over the country, it keeps you fit and racing is great fun.


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Q. What are your biggest sailing achievements?

I worked my way up through the various RYA squads and have represented Team GBR at European and World Championships, sailing Toppers and Lasers.

I was a member of the Cambridge University crew winning the International Top Universities Regatta 2018 in Qingdao, China against university teams from all over the world.

I am now a member of the Cambridge University Sailing Team.

Q. Tell me about your time at Upton House School and Sir Williams Perkins School?

I loved Upton House School and Sir Williams Perkins School (SWPS) as I love to keep busy and have lots to juggle. 

I think Upton made me well-rounded as it was great academically, but also for sport and developing my confidence. Science and maths were two of my favourite subjects at Upton as I had a fabulous teacher who loved doing practical work, and this really inspired me.

I played in lots of sports teams at SWPS, such as hockey, netball and badminton, but my first love was and always will be sailing. I also represented my school in many maths, science and engineering-based competitions, and completed my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Lucy at age 10, chipping ice off the boat before sailing

Q. What are you doing now and what are your future goals?

I am studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, specialising in chemistry. I sail every weekend and compete in many inter-university competitions. 

The social life is great and occasionally we win too!

Racing at a high level has taught me not only the importance of physical and mental fitness, but also to deal with pressure in challenging situations. I compete in both single and multi-handed boats, which has helped me to work well as an individual and as part of a team. I would love to continue sailing both competitively and for pleasure.