The promising career of a Harrogate teenager who is one of Britain’s most talented young sailors has been rescued by a local optician.
Teenager Oliver Kent’s success in a boat is made even more impressive by the fact he has been short-sighted since he was eight-years-old.
His poor eyesight means he has had to battle not only against rival sailors but the inevitable splashes and spray on his spectacles.
But the tide has turned since Starbeck-based optometrist Christopher Nixon stepped in with state-of-the-art contact lenses as part of his sponsorship.
As a result, Oliver, who sails solo and double-handed, recently came third in the Great Britain Junior Nationals and eighth in the Junior World Championships.
Oliver, 15, who is a student at King James’s School in Knaresborough, said: “Wearing glasses wasn’t ideal when I was competing. I needed windscreen wipers on them most of the time!
“Not wearing anything in my eyes at all and having no restriction of soft lenses near the water is amazing. ”
Wearing normal contact lenses while sailing was too dangerous an option - the combination of lenses and water can lead to serious vision-threatening eye conditions.
The breakthrough came when Christopher offered Oliver the top of the range Ortho-k contact lenses.
The ‘Rolls Royce’ of lenses, the bespoke contacts gently flatten the cornea during sleep at night, leaving the user free of glasses and lenses for day time and, in Oliver’s case, sailing competitions.
Oliver’s mum, Paula, says she is over the moon at the transformation.
She said: “It’s life-changing for Oliver. He would not be able to compete at the level he does without these lenses.”
A member of Ripon Sailing Club and Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club, Oliver is used to training in all conditions, including the worst of winter.
His success started in a single-hander RS Tera Sport, the most basic model of boat made for beginners.
It is not just the ability to compete at a national level which delights Oliver and his family, but also the fact that these lenses have been shown in a number of international studies to slow the progression of myopia.
His mum Paula said: “The fact Oliver is able to compete at a national level in his favourite sport and that this is also slowing down the deterioration in his sight all in one is terrific.”