Toby won’t let anything hold him back

Toby Griffen has been sailing with Poole Yacht Club since he was seven years old. He comes from a family of sailors – starting with his grandfather, and his mum who always sailed at Poole. In fact, his parents even held their wedding reception at the club. So it’s perhaps not surprising that he worked through all the RYA levels and then went on to qualify as a dinghy instructor along with a whole group who had been cadets together.

A child with blond curly hair, wearing a buoyancy aid and wetsuit, standing next to a dinghy called Happy Feet

Now aged 18, he is training the youth sailors at Poole Yacht Club and is the youth representative on the sailing committee, enjoying keelboat racing and crewing on a Cape 31. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that this has all been easy for Toby, but there have been some significant hurdles along the way. As a dyslexic, he has found academic tasks such as reading sets of sailing instructions challenging: “I try to consider this when I coach others, and teach how I’d like to be taught. To me, dyslexia is an advantage though, as it makes me look at things in a different way. When I’m racing on a big boat, for example, I look at it as a whole boat, and how it can sail better, not just at what I’m doing myself.”

He’s also struggled with racing classes over the years, because he’s been bigger and taller than everyone else: “I struggled with Toppers, so went to Lasers at around the age of 14, and finally found I could progress. Then I sailed a 420 for a while, and now I’ve found that the Finn is the boat that challenges me and is fun – and there’s lots of events. I’m 5’ 11” and weigh 14 stone, so the Finn’s the one for me.”

Now Toby is flourishing in the watersports world, studying for a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Outdoor Activities at Rockley Watersports, and upskilling as much as he can while planning to join the Merchant Navy, do a cadetship to become an Officer of the Watch and eventually to work on superyachts!

“I really want to emphasise the positive side of dyslexia,” he says. “I like the fact that I’m giving something back to Poole Yacht Club by training the youth sailors now. And size shouldn’t limit people – I’d encourage everyone to follow their ambitions.”

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