ATHENA Jones, from the Atlantic Academy in Portland, was presented with a prize of a week’s sailing course worth £355 in celebration of the 20,000th child having gone through the Rod Shipley Sail For A Fiver scheme.

The prize was donated by the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, where the event was hosted and saw 60 children visit the centre in Portland to take part in the scheme, in a collaboration between the centre and the Chesil Sailing Trust.

The scheme was started in 2003 and now sees 2,500 children benefit from it, which allows them to have a sailing session at the cost of £5 per child.

Melissa Heppell, vice-principle at the Atlantic Academy, said: “She (Athena Jones) was very excited to be chosen, we bring our Year Sixes down every year for a day on the water, thanks to the Rod Shipley Sail For A Fiver scheme and the Andrew Simpson Centre.

“They have an amazing time and the scheme means that some of our children who would not have an opportunity to be on the water get on the water and use these fantastic facilities around us and have an absolute blast.

“Some of the children are not water confident and are a bit nervous to start with but they all come off with massive smiles on their faces, they love every minute of it and it is great to see them having fun out on the water in our local area.”

The scheme is aimed at those in school years five and six and can only come once a year and the funding is due to the legacy of Rod Shipley and the money donated by his widow Elma in his honour.

John Tweed chairman of the trustees for the Chesil Sailing Trust said: “I think it is a great milestone, 20,000 young people on the water, that is more than every man woman or child in Dorchester.

“So it is a great number, it has been running for a few years now but it is great to see it all coming together. It has been expanding recently and because of the generosity of Mrs Shipley and the legacy her husband left.

“It has been possible to expand it so that we are now able to give that experience to 2,500 youngsters each year.”

Tweet added: “We are proud of the things that we are doing, across a whole range of things. I mentioned the Sail Fit programme to try and encourage regular exercise and healthy nutrition in young people together with our small to tall programme, giving youngsters a different experience on tall ships or larger vessels just to develop their interest in the water.”

Alex Porter, centre manager of the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, said: Working with the Rod Shipley Sail For A Fiver is easy, without them we would not be able to put this on.”

“We would not be able to do it without the funding, it just does not happen. As you can see, the kids engaged, they had a great time, and for us it is not just about taking them sailing it is about giving them an experience.

“For some of the kids this will mean more to them than just sailing, it is getting them out of the classroom and having a really good experience.”

Other programmes that the Chesil Sailing Trust currently run also include: Sail Fit, a programme aimed at young people who are at risk of developing weight-related health problems, and Support for Chesil Sailability, who provide opportunities for people with disabilities to sail.