Thirteen youngsters from across the UK have been handed a huge boost in their ambitions to become top class dinghy sailors and windsurfers thanks to a national programme helping young talent progress in the sport.
The delighted sailors have been awarded exclusive use of their own boat or windsurfing board for the next two years through the on-going partnership between the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and RYA OnBoard.
Launched in 2013, the partnership supports youngsters who display enthusiasm, drive, talent and commitment to the sport and who may not ordinarily have the opportunity or financial backing to achieve their goals. In its six years, 76 boats and boards have now been donated with some remarkable success stories.
The 2019 winners are:
|Autumn Halliday||Strangford Lough Yacht Club (Northern Ireland)||Topper|
|Daniel McGregor||Priory Sailing Club, Bedford||Topper|
|Edward (Ed) Corbett||Llangorse Sailing Club, Wales||Topper|
|Jonah Roberts||Burwain Sailing Club, Lancashire||Topper|
|Matthew Chadderton||Trimpley Sailing Club, Worcestershire||Topper|
|Thomas Looseley||St Andrews Sailing Club, Scotland||Topper|
|Roscoe Kailas (Gomm)||Buzz Active,East Sussex||Topper|
|Max Collis-Smith||Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club, Somerset||Bic Techno|
|Olivia Robson||Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, Portsmouth||Bic Techno|
|Sorley Livingstone||Clyde Windsurfing Club, Scotland||Bic Techno|
|Mia Gray||Felpham Sailing Club, West Sussex||RS Tera|
|Toby Waggett||Teesdale Sailing Club, County Durham|| Optimist |
|Olivia Pescod||Pennine Sailing Club, South Yorkshire||Optimist|
"Wow wow wow while jumping up and down!"
That was Mia Gray's reaction to being told the news according to her mum, Jules.
Mia is going to name her boat 'Olly' in memory of her grandfather, who also loved the sea. She has hired club Teras from Felpham every week since she started sailing. But, as Jules explains, for her to be able to sail in her very own boat will be wonderful.
Jules said: "This this is a dream come true for Mia. Mia loves sailing, she has worked incredibly hard over the last few years to compete and aspire to be the best she can be. This is the icing on the cake for her this year!"
Carey Robson admits she had tears in her eyes after opening the email telling her about Olivia's new Bic Techno board. And as happy as the young windsurfer is to be able to use the kit for herself for the next two years, she knows passing the board and sail on to AWSC Portsmouth will help other windsurfers develop in the sport too.
Olivia said: "This will help me to achieve my goal of getting into National Squad then going on to compete in the Olympics. I feel so privileged to have received such an amazing award. I feel that this will boost my confidence. Thank you so much!"
'Bouncing' was a common theme when it comes to reactions - "Daniel was ecstatic and bouncing up and down when he found out," revealed Daniel McGregor's mum, Emily, while "Thomas (Looseley) was literally bouncing around the kitchen with excitement," said his dad, Mark.
JMST and OnBoard making real difference
The JMST seeks to help young sailors and youth sailing organisations to achieve their goals and was set up in the memory of 1996 Olympic silver medalist, John Merricks. As OnBoard's official charity partner, JMST will donate at least 80 single-handed junior pathway boats and boards to promising sailors over eight years, giving them the chance to progress their skills and continue to participate in the sport.
Until now, Ed Corbett's family have had to go to collect a boat for him midweek and hope its good enough for him to sail.
Dad, Tom, said: "To know we can just load up and go sailing from home will make such a difference to him and to us as a family. It will mean he can get on the water for training more frequently. It will also make a real and positive difference to have a boat with the latest rigging and a hull devoid of patches and scratches. We sincerely hope we can make the most of the opportunity having this Topper affords Ed."
Hannah Cockle, RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, added: "We cannot thank JMST enough for continuing to support the programme. For many of the winners it will be the difference between continuing in the sport and not. It is such a thrill telling the sailors and their families they have been successful because we know what a difference getting a boat or board will make to their lives.
"This really is one of my favourite parts of my job! OnBoard is all about making it easier and cheaper to get more young people aged 8-18 on the water regularly and that is what the JMST partnership helps us to achieve".
How can you apply next year?
This year's recipients all applied for and were awarded their new boats or boards after attending their respective British Youth Sailing Regional Junior Championships at the end of September. Declarations of Eligibility for next year's applications will open in July 2020.
Since 2005, OnBoard has helped over three quarters of a million young people try sailing and windsurfing and learn an activity that often stays with them for life. The programme enables youngsters to enjoy all the excitement and relaxation being on the water offers, whilst nurturing a wide range of broader learning benefits and invaluable life skills, from problem solving to leadership and teamwork.