John Merricks Sailing Trust continues its support for aspiring talent and RYA OnBoard clubs

Two Optimist sailors from the North East have been awarded new boats to take their racing to the next level thanks to a partnership between the John Merricks Sailing Trust and RYA OnBoard.

Toby Waggett, of Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club, and Olivia Pescod, of Pennine Sailing Club, have each been given exclusive use of their own boat for the next two years thanks to the national scheme to support up and coming talent. The boats will then be given to their clubs to benefit other young sailors in the future.

The pair were among 13 promising sailors and windsurfers from across the UK chosen to benefit from the partnership in 2019, which since its launch six years ago has supported around 80 youngsters who have displayed enthusiasm, drive, talent and commitment to the sport and who may not ordinarily have the opportunity or financial backing to achieve their goals.

Toby learnt how to sail at Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club (TDSWC) and up to now has used a second-hand club boat. Mum Deborah said: "He was so excited when he read the mail telling him about it! We would like to say a big thank you to the John Merricks Sailing Trust for providing Toby with this boat to help him along his sailing career and to give him the opportunity to progress.”

When he joined TDSWC’s F3 Club for juniors in 2018, he was one of the youngest members at seven – he would have joined the year before but was considered to be too young! Toby now competes at the club and further afield, recently winning the Optimist regatta fleet at the British Youth Sailing North Junior Championships at Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club. The nine-year-old from Eggleston, near Barnard Castle, said it was his dream to one day be a part of the British Sailing Team.

Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club Development Officer Tony Merry and Lead Instructor Imogen Clay, who nominated Toby for the award, said: “He is proving to be a fast learner and a very popular race participant. On the water Toby is making excellent progress and having attended many regattas and training sessions away from the club he is becoming a formidable competitor. He is never put off after sailing a (rare) poor race and is always wanting to find out what he could have done better.”

Toby Waggett on shore with an Optimist at Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club, Olivia Pescod learnt how to sail after attending a Push the Boat Out open day at Pennine Sailing Club in May 2019. The 10-year-old from Holmfirth said: “Ever since I read the Swallows and Amazons series of books I have always dreamed of learning to sail so I can be like them, sailing with friends and competing in races. It will be very exciting to be able to sail a brand new boat.”

Commodore Peter Van Ruiten said Olivia had very quickly showed her ability after joining the club, successfully completing RYA Stage 1 and 2 training courses and becoming an enthusiastic member of the junior section: “Her confidence on the water continues to grow and demonstrates a willingness to learn and succeed.” Olivia was named ‘Sailor of the Week’ in the Optimist fleet at Pennine SC’s Kids Week in summer and like Toby, has up to now benefited from borrowing club boats.

Dad Vince said: “We are very proud of Olivia, who only recently started sailing but with the fantastic support of the adult and junior instructors at Pennine Sailing Club has achieved what she always dreamed of. She's a fast learner and always tries her best and we are sure she will make the most of this great opportunity provided by this John Merricks Sailing Trust and RYA OnBoard award.”

Olivia Pescod was inspired by Swallows and Amazons and is picture helming a cruising boat on holidayThe John Merricks Sailing Trust seeks to help young sailors and youth sailing organisations to achieve their goals and was set up in memory of 1996 Olympic silver medallist John Merricks. As OnBoard's official charity partner, every year at least one promising young sailor or windsurfer from each of the regional RYA Zones and Home Countries is awarded a single-handed junior pathway boat or board, giving them the chance to stay in the sport and develop their skills.

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. 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 us to achieve."

Find out more about getting on the water at Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club and Pennine Sailing Club or discover your nearest RYA OnBoard club for children and young sailors at


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