Case studies

BTEC Student and SailGP INSPIRE candidate Rhys Cheetham

From BTEC to Championship. We catch up with BTEC student Rhys Cheetham on his incredible journey.

From BTEC to Championship. We catch up with BTEC student Rhys Cheetham on his incredible journey.

BTEC student Rhys Cheetham jumped at the chance to become an apprentice for the Australian SailGP team through the SailGP INSPIRE programme, SailGP’s community, education and outreach initiative. This allowed 18 local sailors, with a 50/50 gender participation rate, to showcase their sailing talents this summer? in front of a grandstand as a prelude to the F50 racing. The sailors raced around a slalom course in front of the event village at Cowes?. The pre-show was broadcast live on event village TV. Rhys loves the Americas Cup and SailGP so it was a fantastic opportunity.

Andrew Henderson, team manager at Oracle, said: “Rhys showed a rare sort of commitment and dedication. Every day he took two buses and a ferry each way to work with us for free. Give him to Mark Turner at the Volvo Ocean Race Team for three years and he’d be a force to be reckoned with.”

We asked Rhys about why he chose to study the BTEC with UKSA and about his experiences with the SailGP team.

Before joining UKSA when I was 17 …

“… I was at MPCT to get fit after being medically discharged from the Navy. I found out about the BTEC through UKSA’s NCS programme, which had a community project at the lifeboat station where my dad works. I’m learning loads – I really enjoy the sports and activities.”

Tell us about your work experience with the ‘wing’ department

“This is the team responsible for the development and maintenance of the 24-metre wingsail that provides the power behind the fastest sail race boats. I started off by cleaning the wing and watching the team fix it and weight-test it. During training the Australian team broke their wing and I offered to stay with them to help fix it so they could race in the Cowes event.”

During this time I discovered …

“… that I love learning new things. Because I was so involved I didn’t mind travelling early and staying late.”

Being on the podium with the team …

“… blew me away. I didn’t really know what to do. Being part of this SailGP team was an amazing feeling, especially as everyone knew me by name.”

“My experiences will influence my career 100%. I’ve been set up for life with industry contacts and people willing to help me.”

How important are programmes like INSPIRE for young people?

“Without the INSPIRE programme I would never have had the amazing opportunity I’ve been given, so I’d say they’re really really important. This has changed my life.”

Rhys’s advice

“Keep going for it and don’t ever give up. Be proactive and always try to improve yourself.”

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