FOUR boat-loving families sailed to success in a national championship.

The Willett family, dad Daniel and five-year-old Daisie, seven-year-old Josie Rist-Heppell and uncle Simon Hiscocks, 11-year old Finley Appleton with mum Emma and 11-year old Willow Cross and dad Stephen all represented Brightlingsea Sailing Club.

They were taking part in the Gul 2021 Mirror Dinghy National Championships, hosted by Restronguet Sailing Club, in Cornwall.

A Mirror Dinghy is a popular sailing craft named after the Daily Mirror newspaper.

Gazette: 7-year-old Josie Rist-Heppell and Simon Hiscocks

Cup conquest - seven-year-old Josie Rist-Heppell and Simon Hiscocks

It was designed in the 1960s, particularly to be light and stable and ideal for children or teenagers learning to sail.

More than 40 boats took part and all the children were crewing for their grown-ups, apart from 11-year-old Willow, who was one of the youngest in the competition to take the helm.

It was the first big contest for each of the novice sailors and a very competitive fleet to start in.

The first windy day was a learning curve for the children.

Gazette: Team members celebrating with their new winner's shield

Taking the helm - 11-year-old Willow Cross

However, they soon rose to the challenge, picking off the other boats on each leg of the course.

After Daisie and Daniel's excellent start, an unfortunate gear failure sidelined them.

However, by day two, the remaining three boats were all in the top half of the fleet.

After six races on day two, the children and grown-ups realised they were not only battling for individual places but also vying for Best Placed Club.

Gazette: Out in front - Josie Rist-Hepell and Simon Hiscock sailing ahead

Out in front - Josie Rist-Hepell and Simon Hiscock

Although day three brought more challenging conditions, it was the best day yet for the Brightlingsea club, with Josie Rist-Heppell and her uncle finishing strongly by winning both their final races.

Overall, the teams placed second, 14th and 16th and were awarded the Best Placed Club shield.

They were overjoyed to bring the silverware back home and share it with the budding sailors at Brightlingsea Sailing Club and team captain Malcolm Goodwin.

It was a fitting tribute to him and the hard work he does building up the club's next generation of sailors.

Gazette: Following the fleet

Following the fleet - action from the event in Cornwall

Anyone wanting to try sailing or learn more about the club should contact club president Fiona Brown via or send an enquiry to their Facebook page -

Gazette: Taking the helm - 11-year old Willow Cross

Taking the helm - 11-year-old Willow Cross