By Fiona Tomas, Sportsbeat

ISLAY Watson has had to grow up faster than most 16-year-old girls.

The promising young sailor is spending her summer holidays along Dorset’s south coast – 593 miles away from her family in Aviemore – at the National Sailing Academy in Weymouth, where she is ‘winding down’ after a busy season.

But rather than enjoying a beach holiday following the completion of her Highers, Watson is in full swing with her training and is already preparing for the winter season.

“It’s difficult to be away so much and so far from home, it can be a bit of a challenge. But it’s definitely so much better for training and it’s where I need to be to improve myself as a sailor,” said Watson, who trains at the Loch Insh Watersports Centre in Kincraig when back home in Scotland.

“Over the past few months, it’s been pretty hectic and full on – I’ve been training pretty much every day and only spent two days at home.

“This past year, it has been pretty hard to balance my schoolwork with all my training - I had to do some work at home as I’m away from school quite a lot.”

But having enjoyed a successful season in the boat, it seems Watson’s juggling act has definitely paid off.

She finished in the top ten in both the Techno293 Junior European Championships 2017, and at a qualifying event for the Youth Olympics in Italy – results which the teenager was delighted with.

“I was pretty surprised at my performance at the worlds, where I finished eighth,” added Watson. “I did better than I expected and I was really pleased with the whole experience.”

And having finished an admirable ninth at the Youth Olympics quialifier, Watson revealed it has reignited her ambition to represent her country at the prestigious competition.

“It’s a big goal of mine for the next couple of years so if I don’t qualify this time round, there’s another opportunity to qualify next year,” she said.

“I’ve never been before, and since Tokyo 2020 might be a bit far off yet, I don’t think it’s achievable at the moment, still being a junior.

“I’ve never competed in an international event yet, but I’m hoping to do some next year as I look to transition to that level.”

And having graduated from the national junior squad to the national sailing academy, the Scot remains on track to gain some senior caps next year.

Helping Watson in her quest is the SSE Next Generation programme, which supports the young sailor in everything from travel costs to lifestyle management through workshops run throughout the year.

She concluded: “The financial support is really important – it makes going to all these places around the world – so much travelling and expenses. It’s been really helpful.”

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