Rutland SC's two JMST funded RS21s sailing downwind with spinnakers at the club.

Rutland Sailing Club is creating a hub for keelboat racing in the Midlands with plans for a fleet of RS21 sportsboats and an academy to develop young talent.

The club acquired two RS21s in June 2022 following a £26,000 legacy award from the John Merricks Sailing Trust, with a further £4,000 made available by benevolent donors.

The Trust was set up in memory of Olympic silver medallist John Merricks, whose home club was Rutland SC, and wrapped up its activities after 25 successful years with grants for projects offering a focus on youth sailing, diversity and inclusion.

Rutland SC is already using the keelboats for youth training, skills development and match racing, and will also be using them to promote inclusivity for other groups within the club and to bring benefits to the wider local and sailing community.

470 Olympic silver medallists John Merricks and Ian Walker

Growing legacy

David Wilkins, Rear Commodore and Open Event Coordinator, said: “Having got our two RS21s we have aspirations to now build on the project to have four boats and a Rutland keelboat academy offering activities for the region.”

The RS21s have so far been used throughout the club, including by its Hydra youth group and female sailors, with coaching and impressive results on the national circuits, including Rutland SC teams finishing third in the BKL Women’s Open Keelboat Championship and winning the RYA Harken Youth Match Racing Championship (pictured below) and Qualifier 1 of the RYA Winter Match Racing Series.

As David explains: “In terms of trying to create a legacy already we’ve gone beyond expectations thanks to having these boats and that will continue to grow.”

Two RS21 keelboats match racing each other upwind, including team from Rutland, competing at the RYA Harken Youth Match Racing Championship 2022.

Keelboat opportunities

In addition to the two JMST funded RS21s, the club also currently also has two on loan from RS Sailing, with all four boats taking part in the Tiger Trophy in February, and RS21 Class Association training earlier this month (7-9 April).

The club’s upcoming plans for the keelboats include:

  • A continuing programme of match racing, keelboat and skipper training
  • Opportunities for young sailors to go out in the RS21s at the RYA Eric Twiname ‘Battle of the Regions’ Junior Championships, 29 April-1 May, and the British Youth Sailing Regional Junior Championships 17-18 June
  • A keelboat championship for Midlands clubs and activities for schools
  • Hosting the British Keelboat League, 18-19 August, at Rutland SC
  • A winter keelboat series with places for non-members to take part

Teams lining up for a startline in RS21s at BKL final 2023

Academy plans

Although the additional two boats are currently on loan, the club is working on fundraising initiatives to find a way of buying and keeping them at Rutland.

David (pictured below at the JMST Legacy Awards: third from right, back row) added: “The hope is to have a national keelboat academy at Rutland and we can do that with four boats alongside our existing facilities, which include the John Merricks training building next to the pontoons, an established Sailability section, and bunk rooms at the club accommodating up to 40 people, so everything is on site.

“The aim would be to create a base at the club which caters for all – from Sailability, schools and community groups through to high level keelboat racing skills – with a particular focus on young people but also with opportunities for adults.

“We are also reaching out to wider inclusivity opportunities through universities, schools and other diversity groups. Four boats will enable us to do lots of things for people across the region and beyond.”

JMST Legacy Awards are presented with commemorative pictures of John Merricks to club representatives at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show 2022.

Further information

The keelboat initiative at Rutland SC will build on the club’s existing successful programme for youth and junior sailors which you can read about here.

You may also want to find out more about keelboat racing opportunities or take part in the British Keelboat League.

For young sailors who would like to take part in the BYS Midlands Regional Junior Championships at Rutland SC this June – which includes Rookie, Regatta and Championship fleets – entry is now open.

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