Dominic Atherton is one of twelve promising sailors and windsurfers from across the UK who have been awarded exclusive use of their own boat or windsurfing board for the next two years thanks to the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and RYA OnBoard partnership.

Since its launch in 2013, the partnership has supported youngsters who display enthusiasm, drive, talent and commitment to the sport but may not ordinarily have had the opportunity or financial backing to achieve their goals. In its six years, 76 boats and boards have been donated with some remarkable success stories. 

12-year-old Dominic was introduced to sailing at Grafham Water Sailing Club in May 2017 when he attended a half-term RYA Stage 1 and 2 course with his brother and 4 of his brothers’ friends. He continued to complete his Stage 3 that Summer.

Dominic has been awarded a Topper, and plans to continue sailing with Team Grafham on Saturday afternoons, as well as representing GWSC in the Cambridge Youth League, ultimately aiming to join the RYA Squads.

His Mother Louisa said: “We were absolutely taken aback when we found out that Dom had been awarded a boat. Even his older brother was secretly pleased for him even though he himself was unsuccessful. He can now get his boat set up in a way that he can consistently rely on it as well as learn how to master the boat better. A very exciting new chapter in his life.”

Each year, at least one young sailor from each of the RYA Zones and Home Countries is awarded with a single-handed junior pathway boat or board (Optimist, Topper, Laser 4.7, RS Tera and Bic Techno 293OD). It will then go to their club for other junior sailors and windsurfers to continue to benefit from in the future.

John Aston, Commodore at Grafham Water Sailing Club said “We are delighted at Dom’s success in winning a Topper from the JMST. Dom has been an enthusiastic member of Team Grafham, our youth sailing initiative, for over a year. A new boat should help him personally to progress more quickly and in turn should give encouragement to the whole of Team Grafham.”

RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, Hannah Cockle said: “OnBoard is all about making it easier and cheaper to get more young people aged 08-18 out on the water more regularly and that is exactly what the JMST partnership helps us to achieve. 

“It is such a thrill telling the sailors and their families that their applications have been successful, because we know what a difference getting a boat or board will make to their lives. For many it will be the difference between continuing in the sport and not, so we cannot thank JMST enough for continuing to support this programme.”

To learn more about RYA OnBoard visit