Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Life-Changing Opportunity For Young NI Sailors to Have Their Own Boat

8th May 2022
Connie Wilson from East Antrim Boat Club in her Topper provided by the John Merricks Sailing Trust
Connie Wilson from East Antrim Boat Club in her Topper provided by the John Merricks Sailing Trust Credit: Simon McIlwaine/Wavelength

Enthusiastic young sailors from across Northern Ireland are being encouraged to apply to be in with a chance of being awarded their own boat.

Through an ongoing partnership between the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and RYA OnBoard, 10 boats are awarded to deserving young sailors every year, providing them with the opportunity to progress their skills and continue to participate in the sport.

Connie Wilson from East Antrim Boat Club was given a boat by the JMST last year, and she says it has made a huge difference to her: “I recently took part in my first regatta in my JMST Topper — the Irish Sailing Youth National Championships at Ballyholme Yacht Club. It was a great experience in some very challenging sailing conditions.

“Knowing that I have the use of a boat for the next couple of years, whether it be at the club or at a regatta, has definitely made it easier to forward plan and I take great pride in my boat.”

RYA Northern Ireland’s active clubs coordinator Lisa McCaffrey says: “This is the chance of a lifetime for young sailors. Each year JMST kindly donates boats to promising youngsters who are committed to the sport but may not have the opportunity or financial backing to achieve their goals.

“The JMST Scheme provides young sailors from across the country with their own equipment and after two years it is then given to their supporting organisation — usually their club.

“This is a fantastic way to support our sailors and now is the time to submit applications if sailors are interested. We have had many successful sailors from Northern Ireland and they’ve made great progress in developing their skills with their JMST boats.”

More information on the JMST, set up in the memory of 1996 Olympic silver medallist John Merricks, can be found on the RYA website. The closing date for 2022 applications is Monday 20 June. Team

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About the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Northern Ireland 

  • The RYA is the national body for dinghy, yacht and motor cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sports boats, windsurfing and personal watercraft and a leading representative for inland waterways cruising.
  • The RYA is recognised by Government, the media and opinion formers as the representative body and voice for the activities that it represents. It continually fights for the rights and freedoms of its 112,000 personal members.
  • The RYA has more than 1,500 affiliated clubs and classes, which represent some 350,000 boaters throughout the UK. It is estimated that 4 million people in the UK take part in boating activity annually.
  • The RYA also sets and maintains recognised standards for training for both leisure and commercial boating through a network of more than 2,400 RYA Recognised Training Centres across 58 countries. More than 250,000 people per year complete RYA training courses.
  • The RYA is responsible for one of the UK’s most successful Olympic medal-winning sports. Our coaching and development schemes actively support 800 of our country’s top sailors, from talented juniors to Olympic and World champions.
  • The RYA is committed to promoting all forms of boating and making them accessible to everyone. For more information please visit
  • The Royal Yachting Association Northern Ireland (RYA NI) acts for the RYA in Northern Ireland (NI) and the Chairman of RYA NI is invited to join the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) Policy Review Committee.
  • You can find the RYA Northern Ireland at Sketrick House, GE8, Jubilee Road, Newtownards, BT23 4YH.
  • RYA NI is a company limited by guarantee – Registration number NI 51945
  • Contact RYA NI: Tel: 02891 827154 email: [email protected]