A New world class training centre has been opened by Rutland Sailing Club at Edith Weston.
The John Merricks Training Centre was officially opened at the weekend with racing in strong winds to mark the event and a £1,000 prize for the winers of the John Merricks Tiger Trophy.
Paid for with a £110,000 grant from Sport England and additional funding from Rutland Sailing Club, Rutland Sailability, the John Merricks Sailing Trust, Everards Brewery and the RAF, the new centre boosts Rutland Sailing Club’s position as a RYA National Sailing Academy.
Two new classrooms and secure storage sheds will help make it an elite training centre for Britain’s top sailors as well as a venue for major international, national and regional events.
David Wilkins, who led the project for Rutland Sailing Club, said: “This is a real boost to Rutland Sailing Club and for all the people, both nationally and locally, who sail here.
“Over the past 10 years we have been hugely successful in establishing Rutland as one of the country’s premier sailing venues but to enable us to continue providing the high standards of facilities people expect, whether international sailors, our own club members or youngsters from local schools, we had to extend our facilities.
“We are extremely grateful to Sport England, the John Merricks Sailing Trust and our many other funding partners for supporting our vision and to the RYA for their continued advice and guidance.”
The centre, named after Rutland Sailing Club’s 1996 Olympic silver medallist John Merricks, who died in a car accident in 1997, was officially opened by John’s father Dennis and Tony Everard of Everards Brewery.
Ian Walker, John Merricks Sailing Trust Trustee and John’s Olympic sailing partner in 1996, said: “It’s wonderful seeing this training centre set-up in John’s name.
“Nobody trained harder than John, this was his home club and he spent thousands of hours training here. John is an excellent role model for all aspiring future champions.”
Duncan Truswell, RYA Youth Sailing Manager, added: “The new classrooms enable us to run training for several national and regional squads at the same time and also provide more tailored support for the sailors.
“They will also be of huge benefit when we’re running big events, such as the annual RYA Eric Twiname Championships which attracts more than 300 young sailors, as it provides additional space and dedicated rooms to reduce the impact on other club users.”
On the water, sailors faced windy conditions with, for the first time in 13 years, £1,000 awarded to the first team to ever win all races at the John Merricks Tiger Trophy weekend.
After three handicap races on Saturday, race officer David Wilkins said: “It was averaging 18 knots, with some occasional gusts over 25.”
Sailors were tipped in the water all afternoon, keeping the rescue teams busy. Even eventual winners Andy Smith and Tim Needham admitted to three capsizes during the course of the racing.
Smith said: “There was one at the end of the second race near the leeward mark, ended up teabagging Tim and he fell off, another when the spinnaker sheets went under the bow, and another down the run.
“But I think everyone fell in at some point during the day.”
The second day was even windier and the race officer was forced to call off the racing.