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Meet the daredevil grandad, 71, who says: 'You can go faster than the wind itself'

PUBLISHED: 15:38 21 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:54 24 October 2019

Stuart at the Olympic Sailing Centre on the Isle of Portland off the coast of Dorset. Stuart was awarded the National Champion Prize from the Olympic Catamaran Team from the Rio Olympics in 2018. Picture: STUART SNELL

Stuart at the Olympic Sailing Centre on the Isle of Portland off the coast of Dorset. Stuart was awarded the National Champion Prize from the Olympic Catamaran Team from the Rio Olympics in 2018. Picture: STUART SNELL

Archant

Most 71-year-olds could be forgiven for taking things a little easy after a life of hard graft.

Stuart receiving a trophy 2012. He has won countless titles and continues to stay in the top ten catamaran racers in the country. Picture: STUART SNELLStuart receiving a trophy 2012. He has won countless titles and continues to stay in the top ten catamaran racers in the country. Picture: STUART SNELL

But for daring Stuart Snell, age is no barrier to the thrill of racing Catamarans - as he clocked up yet another victory which shows he can teach the young 'uns a thing or two.

The grandfather from Woolpit, who won the Sprint 15 Inland Championship at Grafham Water the weekend, said: "I sail for the excitement of it. When it picks up and you get going you can begin to go faster than the wind itself."

Yet despite 60 years of experience in boating, he said: "I used to teach but then I realised that young people want other young people to teach and you almost need to have the right image for them to want to learn from you."

Whilst Mr Snell's daughter Cathrin learnt from a young age and won international races with her father, he worries that children nowadays are not getting the same opportunities.

Stuart races for the thrill of going fast than the wind itself and says he'll keep sailing until he can't no more. Picture: STUART SNELLStuart races for the thrill of going fast than the wind itself and says he'll keep sailing until he can't no more. Picture: STUART SNELL

"I think there is a decline in sailing amongst the masses and I think it's due to health and safety," he said.

"A lot of schools don't do sailing anymore it's too much paperwork and there's too much risk involved with it.

"It's a shame that all of the red tape is stopping kids from sailing it really is.

"It seems like more and more we don't take part we just watch. We have become a generation of watchers."

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Mr Snell has sailed since he was 11 years old and got hooked on the adrenaline of beating grown men.

His years on the water have taught him some harsh lessons. During a national competition last year, he capsized and spent an hour and a half in freezing water awaiting rescue.

"One thing I learnt young is that the sea always has the last word," he said.

"You have to respect its power or it will overcome you."

Mr Snell has travelled across the world for races but puts his great condition down to his commitment to the sport, saying that other people his age "aren't doing much".

Despite his years, he still ranks in the top ten in the whole country and puts his success down to his experience rather than his athleticism, still sailing once every week.

"I'm well past my best but sailing is a way of life rather than a sport," he said. "I'll keep going until I can't go no more."

Mr Snell credits his attendance at Everyone Active classes for his prolonged sailing career.

He added: "No question about it, I wouldn't be able to if I didn't do the Body Balance classes at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, they keep me going."

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