Belfast sailor selected by Lady Mary Peters for bursary

Mary Peters Trust and Hughes Insurance announce the return of £5,000 athlete bursary programme

Athlete Lauren McDowell
Athlete Lauren McDowell

Hughes Insurance has announced the renewal of its partnership with the Mary Peters Trust as they launch a bursary programme which will award funding to 10 young athletes from across Northern Ireland throughout 2022.

The first of the athletes selected for funding is Belfast-based sailor, Lauren McDowell, who has received a £500 bursary.

Each of the 10 athletes will be selected by Lady Mary and her Trust to receive a £500 bursary from Hughes Insurance to support them on their journey and realise their sporting potential.

Athlete Lauren McDowell, Lady Mary Peters and Bethany Carroll, marketing executive at Hughes Insurance

Lady Mary Peters said: “I am proud that my Trust has chosen to partner with Hughes Insurance again on our 2022 bursary programme. Northern Ireland is a hotbed for sporting talent and last year’s scheme saw ten incredibly talented young athletes supported on the journey to reaching their goals.

“I am delighted that Lauren has been recognised. Her talent and perseverance are evident from her many sporting accolades, and I hope that this bursary will help her to realise her dreams.”

Lauren, 18, from East Belfast, has achieved multiple wins for sailing. These include second female boat at the Royal Yachting Association’s British Youth Nationals in 2022, second Female team 29er in the 2021 Irish national championships, fifth female team 29er in the 2021 UK National Championships and fifth Female Team 29er in the 2021 Royal Yachting Association’s Youth National Championships. She will also participate in the upcoming 29er World Championships in Spain.

A 29er is a two-person, single trapeze dinghy with an asymmetric spinnaker. Designed By Julian Bethwaite and First Produced In 1998, the high-performance vessel is able to reach high speeds quickly due to its aerodynamic hull.

Lauren, who has been sailing for nine years, balances training in yacht clubs around Ireland with studying for her A-levels.

Commenting on her bursary, she said: “I feel honoured to receive this bursary from the Mary Peters Trust and Hughes Insurance. It is a real privilege to have my hard work and dedication recognised and to know that I have been chosen from a large selection of candidates right across the country.

“My greatest achievement to date was second female boat at the Royal Yachting Association’s British Youth Nationals in April 2022 and I simply can’t wait to represent Ireland in the 29er World Championships in Spain this year.

“I love competition and adventure and sailing provides me with both. Having the support of the programme is incredibly important and this funding will help me to get extra coaching sessions in the run up to the World Championships.”

With sailing season underway across the UK, many young athletes like Lauren are currently taking to the water to train and compete.

Bethany Carroll, marketing executive at Hughes Insurance, explained: “At Hughes Insurance, we are ‘here for the journey’ and as such, we’re delighted to renew our partnership with the Mary Peters Trust, which allows us to continue to support many of Northern Ireland young athletes on their sporting journeys.

“Last year’s bursary programme saw 10 talented young athletes receive funding to help them on the path to realising their potential and it has been a privilege to meet with them and hear about their tenacity and achievements.

“We hope that this funding will help Lauren and the other athletes who will be selected this year to excel, and we are excited to follow their development in the years to come.”

The Mary Peters Trust is the only province-wide organisation to provide support to young athletes from all recognised sports. Along with Hughes Insurance, it is also supported by Alchemy Technology Services, who this year became a podium partner to support the Trust’s activities throughout 2022.

The further nine successful bursary recipients will be announced throughout 2022.