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Thirteen year-old Angus Gray Stephens from Brenfield in Mid Argyll has been given a place in the UK national sailing squad in the Topper Dinghy class.
From now on and into the 2009 sailing season he will be off regularly to training sessions all over the UK. With all talented young achievers, the dedication to development has to be mirrored in their families, whose lives inevitbaly become driven by the schedule of training sessions, long hours spent travelling and absorbing the heavy costs involved.
Last week, the British Olympics Association announced the readiness of the first purpose built centre for the 2012 London Olympics – the Olympic sailing venue at Weymouth on the south coast. Angus Gray Stephens has just come back from a training session there and the Topper squad was the first to use the new facilities. Cool or what?
The Topper – a fast single-hander much like a surf-board with a sail and car-top transportable (hence the name) – is one of the most competitive classes, with a national fleet of around 300 boats. That Angus is now in the top eighteen nationally is proof of his ability.
He is also in his third year in the Scottish Topper squad. This season he came second to Lorenzo Chiavarini, RYA Scotland’s Young Sailor of the Year, in the Scottish Traveller Series.
What has all the promise of a strong competitive sailing career for Angus has been entirely nurtured in Argyll. He began at the Tighnabruaich Sailing School and then moved to membership of Mid Argyll Sailing Club and Tarbert Loch Fyne Yacht Club – a famous hot-house for producing successful competitive sailors and host to the legendary annual Bell Lawrie Series, now renamed the Brewin Dolphin Series.
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It has emerged that little more than 1% of the contracts awarded to date in relation to the London 2012 Olympics have gone to Scottish Companies. 801 companies have been contracted by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and of these 10 are Scots businesses.
Jo Swinson, Lib Dem MP for East Dunbarton says: ‘The benefit of the Olympics ought to be felt throughout the UK. That was the promise made at the time of the bid but it is clearly not the case as far as Scottish business is concerned. Scotland is home to 7% of UK businesses but is being sold short’.
In the usual defence manoevre of schoolyard political points-scoring, Tessa Jowell, UK Olympics Minister says: ‘A real drive from the Scottish Executive (she’s obviously ‘forgotten’ it’s a Government now) to maximise the benefits to Scotland of the contracts, for instance, would be one way forward’.
The Scottish Government’s Communities Minister, Stewart Maxwell, makes the key point: ‘Tessa Jowell should remember that the Scottish Government is not responsible for the Olympics and it’s clear from these hugely disappointing statistics that Scottish Companies are an afterthought when lucrative London 2012 are being awarded. The ODA and the UK Government mus ensure that contracts are marketed fairly across the UK’.