A young member of Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club is celebrating after being awarded exclusive use of his own boat for the next two years thanks to a partnership between the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and RYA OnBoard.

Max Yeowart is one of 12 promising sailors and windsurfers from across the UK to benefit from the scheme this year. Since its launch in 2013, the partnership has supported youngsters who display enthusiasm, drive, talent and commitment to the sport, who may not ordinarily have 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. 

Ten-year-old Max, who has been awarded an Optimist racing dinghy, learnt how to sail at Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club in County Durham after attending a taster session with Staindrop Cubs in 2017. He has now started travelling for training and competitions across the region and beyond but has always had to borrow a club boat to take part.

"Having a boat of my own will make a big difference because then I'll know I can definitely go to events without having to worry if anyone else has already got something planned," said Max, who finished second overall in the Optimist regatta fleet at the British Youth Sailing North Junior Championships at Ullswater. "I just really enjoy sailing and competing and the new boat will enable me to develop my skills."

Max will have exclusive use of the boat for two years, after which it will go to Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club to benefit other young sailors in the future.

The club currently has Optibats for training, supported by a previous John Merricks Sailing Trust award of £2,000, but only one second-hand Optimist, which it bought in summer because Max had progressed so quickly towards wanting to compete.

"It's really fantastic for Max to have the security of knowing he has this new boat for two years, and long-term to have a second boat for the club," said mum Judy.

"We owe a big thank you to Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club because it operates as a charity and does a lot of work with the local community, involving groups like Beavers, Cubs and Scouts to give kids a chance to have a go at a sport they wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity to try.

"We're not a sailing family and wouldn't have known where to start, and it's a sport you associate with wealthy families, but Max went to the taster session and then subsequently went along when they first ran junior sessions throughout the summer holidays, and he just absolutely loved it.

"Without people volunteering their time at the club he wouldn't have got this far and now Max is at the point where he gives back into the sailing community, so when they have Beavers, Cub or Scout groups he can help take them out, and with some of the smaller ones who are a bit unsure, he can go in a boat with them to give them confidence."

Nurturing future sailors

Tony Merry, Development Officer at Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club, said the community-focused club had been working to grow its membership and in particular encourage children, leading to the launch of its F3 Club for seven to 11-year-olds and a summer school on Saturdays.

He said: "Max came along and immediately showed some aptitude and interest and his enthusiasm has been 100%. We took him from beginner to being able to look after himself on the water in the first season and in the second season he's started pushing us in that he wants to do spinnaker and trapeze work, and wants to take part in events and racing.

"He started to go to some open meetings and he was borrowing club boats; they are great for training but not for racing. This award will help Max move up to the next level."

Tony added that the example set by Max would help to inspire other up and coming sailors at the club, who will in turn then also get to benefit from the boat: "It will come to the club after Max and have the same role with a different sailor."

RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, Hannah Cockle said: “OnBoard is all about making it easier and cheaper to get more young people aged 8-18 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 or not, so we cannot thank JMST enough for continuing to support this programme.”

Find out more about getting on the water with Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club or discover your nearest RYA OnBoard club for children and young sailors here