STRONG winds and heavy rain could not dampen the spirits of 40 air cadets and dozens more young sailors who took to the water of Portland Harbour this half-term.

The Essex Wing cadets, who stayed at Chickerell Camp for a week of activities, enjoyed dinghy Sailing taster sessions from the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy.

Amid winds ranging from three to 45 knots, they experienced the thrill of sailing on the waters that hosted this year’s Olympic and Paralympic sailing events.

When winds were too strong the youngsters were kept amused onshore by SailLaser Weymouth staff with activities and games, including slack-lining between the pontoons.

Meanwhile, around 30 youngsters took on the challenge of achieving their RYA level one, two and three dinghy sailing qualifications.

Warren Surtees, SailLaser Weymouth centre manager, said: “The air cadets and youngsters on the RYA stages courses have done really well, despite the windy conditions they’ve all managed to get on the water.

“They’ve been here all week and managed to get on the water between gusts.

“We’ve had a really successful week with a lot of qualifications gained and taster sessions.”

Surtees said 20 cadets enjoyed Laser dinghy sailing each morning and afternoon, while groups of 11 and 16 youngsters participated in the Royal Yachting Association courses, with many staying on to get a higher qualification than initially planned.

He added: “It’s been good fun, we’ve kept it light-hearted.

“The cadets will be back next year, their group has been coming every year for three years.

“There’s definitely been a lot of interest following the Olympics, the stage one and three courses were fully booked. We had to cap them we were so busy.”

SailLaser Weymouth, which has enabled more than 9,000 Dorset schoolchildren to experience sailing taster sessions for £5 each thanks to charitable funding, is now seeking a sponsor to ensure the initiative can continue next year.

Individuals or businesses wishing to help are asked to call SailLaser on 0845 337 3214.