Beach volleyball tournament a 'great success'

The organisers of the inaugural Whitby Seafoods Junior Beach classic volleyball tournament have heralded the event as a 'great success'.

Monday, 23rd May 2016, 6:56 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd May 2016, 8:18 pm
Action from Saturday's Whitby Seafoods Junior Beach Classic volleyball tournament. Pictures: Ceri Oakes

Hosted by local club the North Riding Eagles, the tournament attracted an array of talent to Whitby, including Team Great Britain stars Jake Sheaf and Chris Gregory.

“Saturday’s competition was a great success and as host club, we were left celebrating the outstanding feat of a double victory,” Eagles head coach Anthony Laffan said.

In the under-18 girls tournament, the team that caught the eye and were convincing winners were the Eagles’ very own pairing, Eleanor James and Eva Elias.

North Riding Eagles coach and event co-ordinator Anthony Laffan

The duo fought off competition from around the North of England to claim glory on home territory.

Elsewhere, a team from nearby Botton Village, a shared community comprising mainly learning disable residents, also starred.

“The biggest surprise of the day came in the inclusive open four-a-side tournament,” Laffan added.

“Nobody foresaw the North Riding Eagles’ Botton players as potential winners, but after negotiating their way through a tough group they won by in sudden death in the semi-finals before facing favourites York in the final.

Great Britain stars Jake Sheaf and Chris Gregory on the beach at Whitby

“A stunning performance saw them win the day, which was a fantastic achievement.”

Rio Olympic hopefuls Gregory and Sheaf were on hand to oversee proceedings as well as giving a volleyball masterclass to young hopefuls at Eskdale School, and the pair were left impressed by what they saw.

“Whitby has beautiful beaches and this competition was a great opportunity to encourage young players to live a healthier lifestyle and get involved in sport,” Gregory said.

The tournament had all the charm of the seaside, featuring a scampi-tasting shack on the West Pier, donkeys and the customary ice cream van.

North Riding Eagles Anthony Laffan coaches students from Eskdale School

But it was the organisation of the event and the volleyball on display that really caught the eye.

“This may be the start of something permanent as Whitby has potential for a big festival,” said Sanjib Sahorta who was in attendance on behalf of Volleyball England.

Sahorta, an international sports event manager, came along to gauge Whitby’s potential as a host venue for international and regional teams.

He has twenty years of experience in hosting major sporting events and has been tasked with raising the profile of beach volleyball.

The competitors line up after the tournament on the beach by Whitby's West Pier

He will be responsible for co­ordinating the Beach Volleyball Elite Tour, which showcases the country’s best domestic talent, and admitted that the town “captured his imagination.”

“Next year I would like to see more community groups, schools and local businesses getting involved,” he added.

“The seed has been planted and all it needs is to be watered and then we can see it grow.”

“The sport is becoming more popular and I’m really pleased that the annual volleyball Beach Tour will be coming to Bridlington.

“I’m delighted and excited that it is returning to this part of the coast, which is so beautiful.”

Young spectators take in the action alongside Whitby Seafoods mascot Graham the Seagull
North Riding Eagles coach and event co-ordinator Anthony Laffan
Great Britain stars Jake Sheaf and Chris Gregory on the beach at Whitby
North Riding Eagles Anthony Laffan coaches students from Eskdale School
The competitors line up after the tournament on the beach by Whitby's West Pier
Young spectators take in the action alongside Whitby Seafoods mascot Graham the Seagull