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Jude Armstrong Gets Topper Boost For Dinghy Sailing Ambitions

12th December 2020
Jude Armstrong, a member of Upper Thames Sailing Club (UTSC), has received a Topper dinghy to help his training plans Jude Armstrong, a member of Upper Thames Sailing Club (UTSC), has received a Topper dinghy to help his training plans Photo: Alice Armstrong

Talented youth sailor Jude Armstrong (13) is from High Wycombe and has family in Co. Down including grandparents Rob and Betty Armstrong, Afloat's Northern Ireland correspondent. Jude is one of ten youngsters from across the UK who have been handed a huge boost in their ambitions to become top class dinghy sailors thanks to a national programme helping young talent progress in the sport.

The delighted sailors have been awarded exclusive use of their own boat for the next two years through the on-going partnership between the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and RYA OnBoard

It was on visits to family that Jude learned to sail. He took his first sailing courses in 2017 and 2018 at Killyleagh Outdoor Education Centre on Strangford Lough where his Aunt Alice was an Instructor, and subsequently at Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, and just last summer a racing course at Ballyholme Yacht Club.

Launched in 2013, the JMST was set up in the memory of 1996 Olympic silver medallist, John Merricks, and it seeks to help young sailors and youth sailing organisations to achieve their goals. It 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.

Jude, a member of Upper Thames Sailing Club (UTSC), has received a Topper dinghy. He says: "Having my own Topper means I can go to lots more competitions and attend area training, which I could not do before. This will help me become a better sailor, I am really looking forward to sailing my new boat- thank you!" Jude was enthusiastic about taking the step up to a Youth Championship. "I really enjoyed the RYA Regional Youth Championships at Datchet this year and last year. In two years' time, I would like to join the RYA zone training squads and be competing in national and international competitions. Having my own boat will mean I can sail in more regional events."

Jude's dad Barry was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour in April 2019. Whilst mum Jo has been caring for Barry Jude has continued sailing with help from family and friends. Barry sailed as a child and Jude has been keen to follow in his father's footsteps and compete nationally and internationally. 

Jo says of her son: "Jude has been interested in sailing from a young child; a favourite activity was to go to the local river and watch boats going in and out of the lock, and this interest has continued to grow. He has made the most of all opportunities to sail both through his club and when visiting his grandparents in Northern Ireland each summer.
Jude has completed the RYA stages and this summer did Start Racing and Intermediate Racing courses through UTSC and while visiting family in Bangor". Jo continued "We are grateful for support from UTSC which lent Jude a boat for events. He would very much like to progress onto other racing and training opportunities in the region, and the boat from JMST will enable this."

USTC responded: "We were delighted to be able to support Jude's application. He stands out as the keenest young sailor in our group, with a steely determination to succeed, which he frequently does, winning more than half of our junior races last year! Jude's new boat will enable him to take the next steps." After two years in Jude's care the new boat will pass to his club for other youngsters to use.

Hannah Cockle, RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, said: "We cannot thank JMST enough for continuing to support the programme. Over the next three years, £110,000 worth of funding will be going into junior sailing. This money will have a direct impact to the recipients lucky enough to be awarded a boat - they can now feel confident that they will be able to continue their progression in the sport.

As OnBoard's official charity partner, JMST have so far donated 86 boats and boards with some remarkable success stories. The RYA is delighted to announce that the partnership will continue for another three years. Details on how to apply for the 2021 JMST and OnBoard partnership will be issued soon. Run by the RYA, OnBoard is a grass roots programme which introduces sailing and windsurfing to young people aged 8 to 18, through schools, youth groups and training centres. Team

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At a Glance - Topper Championship Dates in Ireland 2021

2nd-4th July Irish Nationals at Strangford Lough Yacht Club

24-30 July 2021, Topper World Championships at Royal Cork Yacht Club

2nd-6th August 2021 UK Topper Nationals Ballyholme Yacht Club

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