How off-Island competition benefits every athlete on Guernsey

December 19, 2023

"Why, as an Island, we punch above our weight nationally and internationally - and how we keep that going" 

by Monty Desforges, Guernsey sailor and part of Team GB

As the sun rose over the Spanish city of Cadiz on the 14th of April, fifteen British sailors prepared for what, for many, would be the biggest event of their lives so far - the ILCA 4 Europeans. Composing the best British sailors in the class, nestled among them were two young competitors from Guernsey.

Hi, my name is Monty, and I was one of those sailors nervously pulling on a Team GB rashvest in the scattered shade of the Puerto Elcano sailing centre last Easter. For me, the Europeans were, and will probably remain, the biggest thing I’ve ever done. It was a cumulation of four years of competitive sailing, a large portion of which has been spent racing in the UK.

As an island, we punch well above our weight in various sports. Just look at the Island Games - we topped the medal table by a way. Sticking to my sport, we have had six sailors in the Youth Squad - the pinnacle of the British Youth Sailing pathway, over the last twenty years. We have won Nationals and Worlds, and have a plethora of sailing talent lining the history of our small club.

I firmly believe that a large part of this comes from off island training and events. The Guernsey Yacht Club pathway has a glittering track record of bringing junior sailors up to the top of the fierce GB circuit; it is built on off island experience.

I have been a huge beneficiary of this system. I started sailing at six years old, and quickly moved into the Optimist, a small junior class with a competitive fleet worldwide. In 2018, I partook in my first event in England, and I haven’t looked back. 

Since then, I’ve competed at two World Championships - both in the RS Feva, finishing top third in Italy this year, one Europeans, and I recently qualified for the ILCA 6 (the step up in sail size from the 4) National squad. None of this would have been possible without the system built by the GYC, but also the experience and coaching I have gained - knowledge that is impossible to glean from Guernsey alone.

Now, I am starting to give back to the GYC, and share the experience I have learned on this five-year journey; coaching the current Optimist sailors, and helping to improve the pathway. Next year is also shaping up to be extremely exciting - Youth Nationals, and, if I’m lucky, another Europeans are on the horizon. I am incredibly excited to see how far I can reach up the ILCA 6 fleet, and the energy at national training, as we all attempt to do the same, is palpable. I love it, and wouldn't trade it for the world.

Competing off island at the level I need to is impossible without some form of support. I’d like to thank the Sports Commission for the backing they have given me this year, and Blue Islands for the support they’re giving me next year. 2023 has been amazing for me; I really feel like, after four years, I’ve hit my stride. I love the feeling of making my way in the world of competitive sailing and cannot wait to see what next year will bring. Onwards to 2024!

Follow Monty’s adventures on his Instagram - @montyd_6256