We’re counting down the days until applications for the John Merricks Sailing Trust / OnBoard partnership open up again in July (yay!)

But in the meantime, we caught up with Llangorse SC’s James Gosson, who was awarded an Optimist through the partnership at the end of 2017, to find out what impact the boat had in his first season sailing it.

Hi James, let’s go back to the very start. How did you first get into sailing?

I started sailing at Llangorse’s OnBoard Cadet Week in 2017. I gained my Level 1 and 2 and later finished my Level 3 as part of the club’s free monthly coaching programme. I really enjoyed learning to sail, it makes me feel happy and free. I saw older kids learning to race and wanted to join in. From learning I have lots of new friends.

By the end of that year you had been awarded a JMST boat. Wow! Why did progress so rapidly?

Llangorse has been very welcoming of my family from the beginning. I really enjoy sailing on a lake surrounded by the hills and farming fields, there is something magical about the club setting.

I had excellent training and coaching at club level, especially from Charlotte Sparks and Will Willet, who made the training fun and interesting and gave support and advice when needed.

I just really enjoy getting on the water and sailing in my spare time, enjoying what I have learnt and having fun in my boat with my friends, trying my best and enjoying my sailing journey.

At the same time you got into the Welsh South and West Regional Optimist squad. What difference did having your own boat make to you training and competing?

It’s made a massive difference to my sailing as I’m able to sail, train and race in the same boat. It’s also allowed me to learn more about the boat as I maintain and clean it after every time it’s on the water. I feel proud to have been awarded the boat.

And it helped you get into the 2018/19 Welsh National Optimist Squad?

Yes, this training has been important as I’ve made real improvement in my rankings due to my hard work and the coaching I’ve received. This year I’ve been concentrating on my race starts and learning more racing techniques. I've made so many friends and we all have such fun together, I really enjoy being part of a team.

You’re heading into your second season with your JMST boat. What are your aims for 2019?

This season my aim is to compete in all the IOCA races and continue to move up in the rankings. I’d also like to learn how to sail a double-handed boat.

It’s hard to believe you’ve only been sailing two years. Has the sport brought other benefits to your life?

Learning to sail has helped with my confidence, especially at school, managing my time, prioritising things that need to be done and being able to think and work for myself. I started secondary school last year and because of the confidence and self-belief I’ve developed I knew, with hard work and studying, I’d be able to improve my grades. I’ve also learnt to have fun and always enjoy what you are doing.

So finally, who or what is your biggest sailing inspiration?

I read Jesse Martin’s book ‘Lion Heart’. Jessie is an Australian who sailed solo around the world, making him the youngest person to complete such a challenge at that time. Wow his autobiography and reading all about his adventures was amazing!

A WORD FROM LLANGORSE…

Charlotte Sparks (Junior Sailing Co-Ordinator): “James has even inspired friends from school to join the club and follow in his footsteps. He loves the sport and although he’s competitive he’s such a nice lad and his level of kindness and sportsmanship is so special. He’s a true role model and a pleasure to teach.

“I think what’s key is his family have been an asset to the club, helping run our coaching days. These work hand-in-hand to support all our OnBoard sailors, who start and continue with their RYA courses and further their skills with monthly free training. It is families like these who volunteer their time to help a junior programme and who continue to promote and support the sport to other youngsters.”