John Merricks II has enjoyed her first season under the stewardship of the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme (VKBP) by finishing an impressive second in class in the overall 2008 RORC series standings.
And the Programme has double cause for celebration as 19-year-old boat captain Ben Pym, from Cardiff, is awarded the Duncan Munro-Kerr Youth Challenge Trophy for the youngest crew member on board a yacht which finished in the top three of her class in the Series.
The John Merricks Trust-loaned TP52 had her first run out under the VKBP banner at the Red Funnel Easter Regatta in March, claiming a respectable third place in her Programme debut event.
As the Programme sailors grew ever more familiar with and confident on their new boat so their results reflected that and JMII clinched an impressive third place at the Raymarine Warsash Big Boat Spring Championship before taking her first line honours victory in May’s RORC Cervantes Trophy Race and then sealing her maiden overall event win a few weeks later in the RORC De Guingand Bowl.
Since 2005, the VKBP had enjoyed the use of the Farr45 John Merricks for training and competition purposes but the acquisition of the high performance TP52 was intended to help take the Programme, and the subsequent opportunities and incentives for the sailors, to the next level.
David Atkinson, RYA Racing Services Manager, believes the crew’s performance in their inaugural season at the John Merricks II helm shows the progressive move is already paying dividends.
He said: 'It has been a really great first season, the TP52 is such a technical boat to sail it’s not just stepping up to a bigger boat but a much more powerful machine and to have been on the pace in the RORC Series is a really good launchpad.
'The sailors have been working on the boat and keeping it up together throughout the whole season and it is a credit to them that they have maintained it to a level which has enabled them to go out and deliver the performances they have done.'
JMII rounded off her debut season with two IRC Super Zero class victories in the RORC Channel and the Cowes-Cherbourg races and competed at Skandia Cowes Week as part of the TP52 fleet.
Among the celebrated names of world sailing that have assisted the Programme sailors’ development onboard JMII this season are World-renowned Vendee Globe skipper Alex Thomson, double Olympic silver medallist and Volvo Ocean Race skipper Ian Walker and Volvo Ocean Race veteran and Programme manager Nigel King.
With the announcement of the new members of the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme for the 2008-09 season imminent, Atkinson says there is much to look forward to over the winter for the sailors.
He added: 'Many of the sailors this season have done a lot of other big boat sailing and having the TP52 has certainly helped speed up the process of getting those sailors such opportunities.'
The Piet Vroon-owned Lutra 56 Formidable 3 finished top of the RORC 2008 Series’ IRC SZ class standings with John Merricks II second and Robby Milhench and Kenny McCullough’ s Alburn (Volvo Ocean 60) third.
Meanwhile, Pym will receive his Duncan Munro-Kerr Youth Challenge accolade at the RORC Annual Dinner and Prizegiving at the De Vere Grand Harbour Hotel, Southampton on Saturday 8 November.