YATE blind sailor Mark Austen is celebrating a dream to represent Great Britain at the 2017 Blind Sailing World Championships in America.

But he has achieved it only after he spent two years busking in the South Gloucestershire shops to pay for his training.

Austen, who is registered blind, has trained and sailed with the Great Britain blind sailing team for two years and has been entertaining shoppers at supermarkets and at private events in order to fund his dream of competing for his country.

He said: “I have been busking for ten years for charities and raised about £20,000 for them but the last two years have been raising money for this.”

And he has now received the news he has been waiting for – that he has been selected to helm one of the four yachts representing Great Britain’s blind sailing team as they defend their world title at the 2017 Blind Fleet Racing Open World Sailing Championships to be held at Sheboygan on Lake Michigan.

Austen said: “When I started sailing with British blind sailing in 2015 I set myself the goal of representing Great Britain in the World Championships for blind and partially sighted people. So I am so proud to have been selected to race with Great Britain.”

Austen flies out to America on September 9 and then competes between September 11-16, with an exhausting seven races of between thirty and forty minutes duration each, over the course of every day.

“I have been sailing with Great Britain for two years and raced for them in Italy at their national championships on Lake Garda.”

Britain have an outstanding chance of retaining their world title, although Austen admits at being nervous about representing his country.

“When you are selected, you walk around saying you are going but now it’s going to happen and, after putting in two years’ hard work, it is suddenly - wow!”

But it has taken a huge effort to get there, including long hours stood around Tesco in Yate and Waitrose in Chipping Sodbury blowing his saxophone and encouraging shoppers to throw some spare change into his bucket.

Austen added: “I’ve been fundraising by playing my saxophone at public and private events.

“The Tesco superstore in Yate and Waitrose in Chipping Sodbury have both allowed me to busk in their stores over the past From back page two years. Yate and Chipping Sodbury Rotary Clubs, the Lions Club and Chipping Sodbury Yacht Club have supported me.

“Friends and family have been very generous with their time and donations, organising fundraising events and supporting me behind the scenes.”

The racing at the World Championships will be on boats with the same fittings – sails, ropes and rudders – that he uses in the UK.