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Toot Hill School pupil, of Barnstone, is celebrating after being awarded a new boat — thanks to John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and RYA OnBoard.

A junior member of Notts County Sailing Club is celebrating after being awarded a new boat.

Isabel Ritchie, aged 11, of Barnstone, is among ten promising young sailors from across the UK awarded exclusive use of their own boat for the next two years — thanks to the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) and RYA OnBoard.

Picture of Isabel sailing a club Topper dinghy, credit David Eberlin (43572045)
Picture of Isabel sailing a club Topper dinghy, credit David Eberlin (43572045)

The national scheme is part of a grassroots programme for young people run by the sport’s governing body and the boats will be given to their clubs to benefit other young sailors.

Launched in 2013, the JMST and RYA OnBoard partnership 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.

The awards have been particularly important this year against the background of the coronavirus pandemic, which brought the sport to a standstill in March.

Ritchie, a pupil at Toot Hill School, Bingham, has been a member of the Notts County SC Youth Race Squad for two years and has been awarded a Topper dinghy to support her ongoing development as a racing sailor.

Ritchie trains as often as possible at the club and usually has to borrow a club boat.

She is now looking forward to having a fully rigged racing boat that will enable her to compete more effectively both at the club and at events further afield.

“I am super excited to be awarded a Topper, I was shaking with excitement when I found out,” she said.

“It is a huge honour to be chosen.

“Thank you to the coaches, instructors and members at Notts County Sailing Club, who have been so supportive and give up so much of their time to our youth squad.

“It means so much because the equipment will help me continue to compete at the club and start to race in different regional and national events too.”

Isabel’s mum, Joanne, who helps at the club as an instructor, said: “Isabel is really enthusiastic about sailing, tries hard to compete and doesn’t give up. She wants to progress in the sport and try different events, and the loan of this JMST boat will really benefit Isabel’s sailing development.”

Notts County SC is an RYA British Youth Sailing recognised club and in nominating Ritchie for the award said it would be fantastic for her to have a boat that enabled her to fully benefit from the opportunities available to the club’s enthusiastic young sailors.

The club said that in addition to training with its Youth Race Squad, Ritchie was also a regular helper at its Saturday Club for juniors starting out.

Youth Race Squad coordinator Stephanie Gunn said: “Isabel is a very thoughtful and dedicated young sailor who shows quiet determination in seeking to improve her sailing skills, going out and giving it her best effort in all conditions.”

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 who can now feel confident that they will be able to continue their progression in the sport.”

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