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Team Athena Racing - inaugural recipients of the Ian Atkins Keelboat Award

by Suzy Hamel 2 Mar 18:18 GMT
Octavia Owen & Emma Wrixon, members of Team Athena Racing, receive the 2019 Ian Atkins Keelboat Award from Ian Walker, JMST Trustee © JMST

The John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST), the charity set up in memory of 1996 Olympic Silver medallist John Merricks is delighted to announce the first recipients of the Ian Atkins Keelboat Award - Team Athena Racing.

Comprising 4 team members: Octavia Owen (Skipper), Hebe Hemming (Main Trimmer), Emma Wrixon (Jib Trimmer), Vicky Cowan (Bow), Team Athena is a British all girls Match Racing team, aged 19-22. Currently 14th in the Women's world rankings the team have an intensive schedule planned for 2019 including:
Nations Cup 9-14th April 2019 (San Francisco)
EUROSAF Women's Match Racing - 20-23rd June 2019 (Italy)
EUROSAF Youth Match Racing 2019 - 3-6th July (Italy)
Governor's Cup - 15th- 20th July 2019 (San Francisco)
Women's Match Racing Worlds - 5-10th August 2019 (Lysekil, Sweden)
Harken Youth International Match Racing Championships - 20-24th November

Their major goals are to move into the top eight in the rankings and finish in the top 3 in both the WIM series and the Women's Match Racing World Championships

Ian Walker, JMST Trustee and RYA Racing Director commented, "The panel were delighted to receive so many strong applications. In the end our decision was unanimous and we are delighted to support Team Athena with their exciting match racing programme. Good luck to Octavia and her team and we look forward to following their successes in years ahead."

Octavia Owen, collecting the award with team members, Hebe Hemming and Emma Wrixon at the RYA Dinghy Show, said, "It is an honour to be the first recipients of this prestigious award, especially from such inspirational sailors. The bursary will go a long way in helping us work towards achieving our dreams. We would like to thank everyone at the John Merricks Sailing Trust for this amazing opportunity, Jack Fenwick, RYA Keelboat Development Manager for all his support and especially all the members at West Kirby Sailing Club without whom we would not be where we are today."

The award has been sponsored by the owners of the businesses that Ian ran for many years (including the boat sales websites boats.com and YachtWorld) and who wished to recognise his extraordinary career, on his retirement after over 40 years in the marine industry. Ian is well known as an enthusiastic, active, keelboat sailor with an outstanding record of success in yachting both at home and abroad.

The award is open to any sailor or sailors, under 25 years old, who require funding to help them transition from dinghies to keelboats. The award will be a bursary of up to £5000 to be awarded to the sailor(s) who most impress the awards panel consisting of Ian Atkins and the JMST Trustees.

This is the first of 5 separate bursaries to be awarded annually for the next five years. Applications each year will be judged on the track record, commitment, future potential and financial need of the applicants, as well as the scope and ambition of the project or programme.

The John Merricks Sailing Trust has been in operation for twenty-one years and has helped many young sailors and youth sailing organisations to achieve their goals. The charitable trust was set up by those closest to John to do some good in his name and further the memory of such a remarkable young person.

Many people gained from all that John gave and many also helped John to achieve all that he did in such a short time. Indeed if it were not for this help John may have fallen short of his aspirations, culminating in an Olympic silver medal in 1996. The Trust's aim is to provide help to those young people who display similar drive, talent and commitment to sailing as John, but who perhaps themselves need support to set them on their way to fulfilling their ambitions.

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