Applications are open for young sailors and windsurfers to apply for a brand new single-handed junior pathway boat or board thanks to the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and RYA OnBoard partnership which is now in its final year.

The boats and boards will be gifted to promising youngsters who display enthusiasm, drive, and commitment to the sport and who may not ordinarily have the opportunity or financial backing to achieve their goals.  

After two years of exclusive use of their own boat or board, the equipment is returned to the sailor’s original supporting venue so that other young sailors can continue to benefit from the scheme. The range on offer includes: Optimist, Topper, Laser 4.7, RS Tera and Bic Techno 293OD.  

To be eligible a young sailor has to complete the OnBoard JMST Declaration of Eligibility 2020 and attend the RYANI Youth Championships in September (event details correct at time of print).

Since its launch in 2013, JMST has already awarded 89 boats and boards, with at least one boat each year going to a lucky Northern Ireland sailor.  

Autumn Halliday, who was the Northern Ireland winner in 2019 said: “"it's the freedom! I can sail any day or time I want which means loads of water time for practising. I would not have been able to get out on the water very much otherwise. The JMST boat has opened up this opportunity for me.  I had nothing to lose by applying but have learnt so much in the short time I have been using the boat."    

Another previous winner Charlie O’Malley said: “From when I got my JMST boat my confidence and my ability got better. The JMST boat allowed me to go to lots of events and I was meeting more sailors because I was travelling around clubs. The JMST boat allowed me to sail to my full potential and it can also gives others a chance to perform at their full potential. The JMST topper allowed me to take part in the RYANI Youth Championships placing 9th and I was selected to be in the Northern Ireland youth performance programme. The JMST topper changed my sailing life and I hope it can change many other lives to.”    

Hannah Cockle, RYA OnBoard Operations Officer said: “We are hugely grateful to the JMST who have made this fantastic scheme possible for the past seven years. I know the benefits to young sailors and their families, as well as clubs, will be felt for years to come.  

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 the official charity partner of RYA OnBoard, the JMST will donate at least 80 single-handed junior pathway boats and boards to promising sailors over eight years, providing them with the opportunity to progress their skills and continue to participate in the sport.  

Eligible sailors must be under 15 years of age on the 31st of December 2020. Sailors must enter and compete at the RYANI Youth Championships in September 2020. Sailors will then be shortlisted and invited to complete an application form after the event. For any further information visit: OnBoard JMST or call 02380 604195.