Despite 2001 being Keith Atkinson’s first season sailing ‘Formula’ boards and
his first year as a Neilpryde / JP team member, he finished the season as runner
up in the UKWA National Series and UKWA Inland Formula Silver Fleet Champion
at Weymouth in October. He also represented Great Britain in both the European
Championships held in Poland and the World Youth Championships that took place
during August in Italy where he finished as second Brit and eighteenth overall
in his first ever world class event.
Keith joined this year’s winter training migration to Maui, leaving England
at the end of January, so he was absent when in February the Borough of Dartford
recognised his windsurfing achievements by selecting him as their Under 21 ‘Sportsman
Of The Year’ for 2001. His sister Marie, herself an international swimmer and
current Kent, British and European record holder, stood in for Keith at the
civic ceremony held in Dartford’s historic Tudor Gate House and received the
award on her brother’s behalf from the Mayor of Dartford.
Keith’s father David, also a keen windsurfer, was keeping in regular contact
with him by phone, and had been expressing his reservations about him extending
his trip beyond the end of March, when the following morning’s post brought
a letter, addressed to Keith, from the Lord Lieutenant of Kent formally inviting
him to attend a reception and luncheon to be held in Canterbury on Maundy Thursday
in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, following
the Maundy Service which in this Jubilee year is being held in Canterbury Cathedral.
It transpired that Dartford Borough had nominated Keith to represent them for
his service to the local community through his achievements in his sport of
windsurfing. When his father telephoned Keith he had to read out the letter
twice as he thought it might be a ploy to get him back to the UK earlier than
planned. However spurned on by his friends in Maui Keith was soon at the airport
booking a return flight for this once in a lifetime opportunity.