Leap for Success candidate Stephen Cook talks to us about his reasons for doing the course, his experience so far and what it's like to be one of the older members of the group! He talks triumphs, challenges, weaknesses and strengths and why he can't wait to get fully qualified.

Who am I?

Greetings and salutations adventurers; Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Stephen “Cookie” Cook and I am one of the eleven Leap for Success Scholarship students for 2018.Many young people may know me as “Mr Cook” as I was once a History teacher. To my peers and rugby friends I am known as Steve or Cookie or if I have been really bad and you tell my mum it’s “Stephen!”  Some call me a rabid socialist, I just say I’m not a git! Outside of work I enjoy History and Politics, along with Rugby, Beer, Cocktails, Film, Music and mild tomfoolery.

What am I doing?

“Leapers” or “the Leap guys” as we are known are a crack commando unit sent to prison by a military court for a crime we didn’t commit. We promptly escaped….wait! No that’s the A-team! In many ways us “Leapers” are a like the A-team but I’ll come back to that later on.

The Leap for Success Scholarship is a subsidised intensive eleven-week training programme. You get the chance to go from a complete beginner to an RYA instructor in both Dinghy Instructing and Windsurfing completing the necessary and relevant qualifications along the way. Whilst the training is not free it is heavily subsidised and if done independently the courses would cost vastly more. Also included is accommodation and food for the duration of the course. Following Leap for Success, you are obligated to work the rest of this year’s season with Rockley in the UK or France. It’s a perk as you get to hone your newly found skills with the company who trained you. I will be staying in the UK and will be working at Rockley Point or Poole Park or both.

Reasons for doing Leap for Success

Having been a teacher and worked with young people in the outdoor education sector previously I like that Leap for Success will me allow to gain qualifications quickly and provide me with a job at the end. Working in a school at times can be quite oppressive for a free spirit like me and other outdoor activity companies are arguably too broad in what they offer and are becoming less personal. Rockley is all about water sports and is still family owned and run. Having dabbled in a few areas of the outdoor activity sector, water sports is definitely my niche. I’m already a level one paddle coach and love fooling around on boats.  I have chosen to remain in the UK as I want to remain in Dorset, a county I love, and because I want to move back into my flat at the end of the season. Rockley and Leap for Success ticked all the boxes for me.

Hopes & strengths

I’m used to hard work and working with all sorts of folk so I think I’ll be fine with the nitty gritty of training and living together. The coaching side and pastoral care of being an Instructor I’d like to think is second nature to me now. Of course, there’s room for improvement and it’s always good to share/steal other instructors’ ideas but I don’t anticipate that element being too hard for me.

I’m hoping to get both instructor qualifications and have an awesome with Rockley here in the UK. On personal level, I am looking for achieving some new skills and a new hobby. A longer term plan I have is to continue to work for Rockley in some guise for a few years to come…if they’ll have me.

Fears & weaknesses

I was schooled academically and would say even now that academia is where my greatest strength lies. The downside of this, is that perhaps I have neglected more practical skills. That and being older and more heavy set, I worry I wont pick up as quickly and be able to keep up with others when it comes to the practical elements of sailing and windsurfing. I.e. I’m worried I’ll suck at sailing and windsurfing.

On a personal level, I can come across as brash and rude to those with a more sensitive disposition. I’m a big softie really and I mean well. I just hope people can see past the social camouflage and see the real me….pass the bucket!!!

Week 1 & 2 Beginner Sailing


Weeks 1 and 2 have flown by. Dubbed as “Beginners Sailing” on our timetable we have been put through our paces straight away. These two weeks have seen the Leapers sail single hander boats, Picos and Hartley 12s, and double handers Wayfarers, Hartley 15s and Toppers. The sailing has been supported with some classroom sessions. We also had a tour of Poole harbour on some RIBs and did a day sail where we pic-nicked just outside Poole Quay. Our primary instructors these past two weeks have been the dynamic duo of Sophie and Liam. Sophie’s been kindness and patience has been well complimented with Liam’s drive to stretch us both in the boats and in terms of theory. The Leapers have enjoyed cameo appearances from guest instructors James, Pete and Aaron.  Centre Senior, Tom has kept an eye on us both in terms of our progression and pastorally.

The group is quite mixed in terms of backgrounds and ages. We have some total sail novices, myself included, right up to a few who been sailing for years.  As the two weeks went on the gap has been narrowed for sure. The group does resemble the A-team and we have a few of our B.A. Baracus, Murdock, Faceman and Hannibal in the crew.  Despite our differences, like the A-team, we are working well together. Like when a young’un helps their granny with facebook, the younger ones are helping me sail and I’m helping those with presentational/tutoring skills being the old boy of the group. It has been interesting to see that everyone has had their good days and bad days when it comes to sailing. Luckily, you aren’t alone and can bounce off someone else when it’s not clicking.

When not sailing we have had been enjoying an eclectic set of movies ranging from Moana to Wonderwoman. I’m still trying to get the young’uns to watch films which don’t rely on CGI…must be a generational thing. Hahaha. We had an official social where we went bowling. I won but that was probably because the youngsters were more interested in the bar than the bowling.


To coin a phrase used by an instructor I feel I have progressed exponentially over these two weeks. I am starting to understand and apply terminology whilst sailing as well as sailing different boats to a reasonable level in different weather conditions. The two weeks culminated in us receiving a Level 1 Start Sailing certificates. We are slowly moving from the boat controlling us to us controlling the boat.

Challenges/stuff to work on:

It has become clear that I need to work on my finesse. I have leapt into sailing head first and may have been too aggressive with my speed and turns. I will not win by fighting with the wind or the boat. I should be firm but measured. Not too much, not too little. The climax of this lesson was a morning during week 2 where I got taken out three times by a boom on a Wayfarer. The first was a big bang during rigging, the second was a minor one but the third one was the biggest and knocked me to the floor in the boat. Luckily my crew of Alex and Jenna were on hand to balance the boat and rescue me. Feeling slightly punch drunk, I sat out the afternoon’s sailing. The mortal is the story is quite simply…. DUCK!

Being quite heavy, I need to remember to keep my craft moving as if I lose speed it’s much harder for me to gain it back. This links with something I, and a few other leapers, need to continue to develop and that’s our wind awareness. Switching or maintaining our points of sail depending on the wind is something that will improve our sailing hugely.

Highlights of the week:

It was just a day when everything clicked for me and that was our day sail and on the morning leg I was helming the Topper. It was only the second time these Topper had been used. The weather was great and my turns were on point. I liked the feel and handling of the boat. Plus, there was a cute dog in the park we stopped at for lunch. Happy sailor!

Watch the video below and read the next installment of Stephen's adventures, coming soon....

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