RYA Press Release, December 2019
Promising sailor Mia Gray from Bognor Regis is one of 13 youngsters from across the UK who 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 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.
Mia, who sails at Felpham Sailing Club, will receive a new Tera dinghy. The club said in nominating her for the award: “Mia has shown tremendous enthusiasm for sailing and racing in her short time with us. She listens and acts on training advice, and always does so with a smile. Her only limitation right now is her size and weight, but this doesn’t stop her! In the RYA Junior Championships she handled her Tera excellently in very gusty conditions, racing all six races. This shows great determination to succeed.
“Mia takes an active interest in club life and has trained to join the instructor team. As Cadet Captain she is very popular with her fellow cadets and she helps to organise social events at the club.”
“The club will ensure that Mia and her parents are given support to progress her racing away from Felpham, and encourage participation in National and World Championships. At the end of two years her Tera will join our club fleet and help to bring other young sailors into the sport.”
Mia’s mum Jules said of the award: “I have just told Mia the news and she’s so happy! She would like to thank RYA OnBoard and the JMST for this amazing opportunity. Her words were ‘wow, wow, wow’ while jumping up and down!!”
“This is a dream come true for Mia. We have hired club boats from Felpham every week since she started sailing, which has been great, but for her to be able to sail in her very own boat will be wonderful. 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!”
“Mia is going to name her boat ‘Olly’ in memory of my father who also loved the sea. It’s a very proud and special moment for our family. We are always very grateful for all the support we receive as a family from Felpham Sailing Club.”
The John Merricks Sailing Trust (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.
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.”
“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 to achieve.”
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.
For more information about how to get involved in sailing visit www.rya.org.uk/go/onboard
Felpham Sailing Club is an RYA Recognised Training Centre, RYA OnBoard Centre, British Youth Sailing Recognised Club and a finalist for RYA Club of the Year 2019.