Midlands junior windsurfer awarded JMST board and sail

A junior windsurfer from the Midlands is celebrating after being awarded a new board and sail through a national scheme helping young talent to progress in the sport.

Tian Zhang, aged 13, has been given a huge boost to his ambitions thanks to the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and the grassroots RYA OnBoard programme for children and young people.

The JMST and RYA OnBoard partnership supports those who display enthusiasm, drive, talent and commitment to sailing or windsurfing to help them achieve their goals, giving them exclusive use of their own boat or board for two years. The equipment is then gifted to their home club or training centre to benefit other young people in the future.

By coincidence, Tian’s new equipment was delivered to his home in Birmingham the day before his 13th birthday and was enthusiastically rigged the same day in the garden. Tian, who is now on the water at every opportunity, said: “It felt so good to rig it for the first time and it came with everything anyone would ever need. It’s the best birthday present ever!”

Next level

Having first learned how to windsurf at Midland Sailing Club in Birmingham after the country emerged from Covid lockdowns in Spring 2021, at the beginning of 2022 Tian also joined Burton Sailing Club to further develop his skills.

Tian was previously borrowing equipment to compete, including at the RYA Regional Windsurfing Junior Championships at Glossop SC in Derbyshire over summer. His performance at this event and others enabled Tian gain selection for this winter’s RYA Midlands & North Regional Training Group for aspiring windsurfers.

Now looking forward to taking his windsurfing to the next level, Tian said: “The award means a lot to me and there will be more freedom for me to train and compete now that I have my own equipment. It’s both exciting and scary to use new kit and I plan to make good use of it with the Regional Training Group and hope to improve my racing results over the next season. Thank you JMST!”

JMST was set up in memory of 1996 Olympic silver medallist, John Merricks, and has been the official charity partner of RYA OnBoard over a number of years. Tian was nominated to receive the JMST award by Burton Sailing Club, where Tian has also recently completed an Assistant Instructor qualification which will enable him to support other young windsurfers.

Burton SC is a British Youth Sailing Recognised Windsurfing Club and offers a full development pathway taking juniors from complete beginners to regional training squads and international competition. The club said the JMST award for Tian would both support his progression and enable other youngsters to likewise benefit in the future.

Tian Zhang racing with the Burton SC Foremark Flyers team, 2022

JMST Legacy

Elsewhere in the region a boat previously awarded to a young sailor by the JMST and OnBoard partnership is now continuing the legacy after being passed on again.

Manor Park SC had a race rigged JMST Topper which supported two young sailors at the club to progress their sailing over a number of years. But with no obvious candidate to continue sailing it at Manor Park, the club started looking further afield for a new recipient to benefit from it.

RYA Regional Development Officer Ben Hodgson knew of a young Topper sailor at Draycote Water SC who was on the lookout for an affordable racing boat and among the applicants to JMST – and was able to join the dots and put the two parties in touch with each other.

Hari Clark, aged 11, who had previously been borrowing club boats at Draycote Water after learning to sail at the club and taking part in its Friday evening and Saturday sessions for junior sailors, is delighted with his ‘new’ JMST racing boat.

He said: “It’s more responsive than the club boats and I can do a lot more events and training now I have my own boat. I can go to different clubs without having to ask other people for a boat and it’s made my sailing better because it’s going to be rigged the same way every time.”

Hari recently took part in his first Topper traveller event at South Staffs SC, where he won the Endeavour Prize, and hopes to next year be selected for an RYA Regional Training Group.

Dad Richard said: “It’s made Hari even more enthusiastic about sailing if that’s possible! We really appreciate Manor Park Sailing Club making their JMST Topper available, it’s a really good boat and Hari is having great fun sailing it.”

Regional Development Officer Ben Hodgson added: “It was great for the RYA Midlands team to be able to help and also to see a JMST-funded boat continuing the legacy of providing opportunities for upcoming young sailors to develop their sailing. I’m really pleased that Hari now has his own boat that will help him achieve his aspirations.”

Topper sailor Hari Clark at Draycote Water SC

Find out more

Explore the OnBoard programme for children and young people aged eight to 18 at RYA Get OnBoard

Junior sailors and windsurfers keen to develop their racing skills are invited to apply for the RYA’s Regional Training Groups at the end of each summer. Find out more about RTGs.

A key RTG selection event is the British Youth Sailing Regional Junior Championships and the 2023 edition will take place 17-18 June 2023 at Rutland SC for sailors, with a separate event for windsurfers the weekend before on Saturday 10 June at Glossop SC.

Share the details with parents and junior sailors at your club or centre!

Add Comment