We love hearing all about what the John Merricks Sailing Trust / OnBoard partnership is allowing young sailors to achieve.
And as the latest applicants wait to learn if they will receive exclusive use of a new single-handed junior pathway boat or board for the next two years, it was great to find out two previous recipients made their Topper Worlds debuts this summer!
Upton Warren SC’s David Peaty, a 2014 JMST boat recipient, and Hill Head SC’s Arran Goodman, who ‘won’ his boat last year, headed to Loctudy, in Brittany, France in July for the Worlds, which attracted over 200 sailors in both 5.3 and 4.2 sail fleets.
David, who turned 15 in August, achieved his pre-Worlds aim of qualifying for Gold fleet to finish 51st out of 156 boats in the 5.3 fleet, while 11-year-old Arran, who’s only in his third season of sailing, loved racing in the 55-strong 4.2 fleet.
And even though both boys are at different stages of their racing journeys, they agree attending a World Championships has opened their eyes as to what it takes to compete at a big event.
David said: “Before this the biggest event I’d done was the 2016 Topper Nationals in North Berwick, and I hadn’t even sailed abroad before. I expected to be amazed by the magnitude of the Worlds and it lived up to my expectations.
“It was great to sail with and talk to sailors from China, France, Ireland and other countries and it was not too different to sailing in national series races as the format and rules were similar. I’ve been able to evaluate and learn from the experience.”
Arran agreed: “I had great fun and enjoyed the event more than I was expecting. I did better in the races than I thought I would and learnt lots of new tactics on how to sail in such a big fleet. Everyone was very welcoming and helpful.”
For Arran to have attended a Worlds less than a year after getting his JMST Topper is no mean feat. Before that he was borrowing boats from Hill Head SC or 1st Titchfield Sea Scouts, meaning he didn’t have a consistent boat set-up. But having taken part in the RYA South and South West Zone Championships Regatta fleet last year, his big event appetite was whetted and he knew having his own boat would make all the difference.
Arran continues: “The Regatta fleet was a good introduction to Championship racing as it was smaller fleet and there was coaching on the water, which helped explain how the races were organised.
“Having my own boat I knew I could personalise its setup, and through taking part in my local JETs Inter-Club Training and ITCA Southern Zone Open Training last winter I quickly gained confidence in all wind conditions and was also able to practice particular areas of racing, such as starts and mark roundings.
“The Worlds were a great opportunity to sail somewhere different and meet sailors from different countries, and because of my winter training and competing at a National event in Weymouth and the Traveller events I was well prepared.”
David’s two years’ of boat use has now ended. But with the teen planning to continue in the Topper for another year, the Worcestershire Schools Sailing and Canoeing Association (WSSCA), which will receive the boat when he ‘retires’ it, have agreed to extend his sole use to enable him to prepare for the 2018 Worlds in China.
When he first received his Topper, David said he wanted to be able to look back at the end of his two years and say he made the most of it. There’s no doubt in his mind he can.
“I definitely made the most of having my boat,” he said. “I've sailed it almost every weekend training or competing all over the country and was in the Midlands Zone Squad last year and the National Intermediate Junior Squad this year.
“Having my own boat meant I could actually sail single-handed, as there were only double-handers available at my club at that time, and I could take it away to sail in regional and national Topper events, which meant my sailing improved massively.
“I think the best way to get the most out of your Topper is to get to as many events and training sessions as you can and apply for Topper squads. I want to say a huge thanks to JMST for giving me one of the best opportunities I could have had.”
With a Worlds already under his belt, and David’s JMST footsteps to follow in, Arran, who has applied for the RYA South Zone squad for this winter and would love the opportunity to go to next year’s Worlds too, also knows how he wants to be able to reflect on his two years’ boat use.
He added: “I want to be able say my sailing has progressed and I’m now sailing at a more advanced level. I’d like to take part in more Championships to gain more experience of sailing in big fleets and I want to know the boat has been well used and that I looked after it. I love my Topper!”
Good luck boys, keep flying the JMST/OnBoard flag!