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  • Writer's picturePhil Packer

Sarah Ayton OBE supports BRIT & the BRIT 2021 Challenge

We are delighted that Sarah is supporting BRIT and championing the BRIT 2021 Challenge. Sarah is one of Great Britain’s most successful athletes; she is a double Olympic sailing Gold medallist, double World Champion and European Champion. She was awarded ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and became an Extreme Sailing Series Champion.

Sarah Ayton OBE - Double Olympic gold medallist, double World Champion and European Champion

“Through my work with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, UKSA, and having spent over twenty years sailing with young athletes, I am aware of the increase in the numbers of young adults and students who are living with mental health challenges. Preventing and supporting the mental health and wellbeing needs of young adults is vitally important; particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic compounding existing mental health challenges. In order to avoid young adults experiencing long-term mental health difficulties, a collaborative approach must be adopted to ensure young adults and students receive timely care and support from the NHS, the education sector, charities and professional support services. The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) have a clear vision to do everything they can to support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK. By uniting the Education, Sport and Charity sectors, and building strong relationships with universities and colleges, they are delivering an annual UK-wide feel-good fundraiser that every student and young adult can take part in, all while raising much needed funds for charities who support young adult mental health . The BRIT 2021 Challenge has been designed to be inclusive so that students and staff of all abilities can take part in many different ways; by hand-cycling, cycling, wheelchair pushing, swimming, walking, jogging, running, rowing or paddling (canoeing, kayaking or paddle-boarding). We need every UK university and college to embrace the BRIT Challenge, enter teams and encourage student and staff participation; the potential is huge – if every UK university and college team raised £2,021, together they would raise almost £1million. I am thrilled to be joining the BRIT Ambassador family and urge my fellow Olympians, Paralympians and athletes to join me as BRIT Ambassadors and help support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK.

I look forward to encouraging students and staff at the University of Chichester, Chichester College Group and Bournemouth Universityto take on the BRIT 2021 Challenge and supporting them as they complete their 2,021 miles and fundraising targets”.

Sarah celebrating gold at the 2008 Olympic Games with Pippa Wilson and Sarah Webb

Sarah was born in Ashford, Surrey and grew up in Middlesex. Her first experience of sailing as a young child when she was introduced to the sport by a family friend. Sarah’s parents were keen for her to have a hobby and by chance, stumbled across a local sailing club that supported Sarah’s love for the sport. When Sarah was 15, she battled with Meningococcal Meningitis and Septicaemia; she is a patron on Meningitis now. She began sailing in an Optimist dingy before moving up to the Laser Radial class. By the age of 18, Sarah had become Great Britain’s most successful female single-handed sailor, was the British No.1, and won silver at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships. In 2004, Sarah won gold, together with Shirley Robertson and Sarah Webb, in the Yngling sailing class at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Sarah racing at the 2004 Olympic games with Shirley Robertson and Sarah Webb, when they won gold

Sarah was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2005. In 2007, Sarah won gold in the Yngling sailing class at the World Championships in Cascais, Portugal, and that same year, won the Olympic Test Event. Sarah won gold at the 2008 European Championships in Blanes, Spain.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Sarah won gold, together with Pippa Wilson and Sarah Webb, in the Yngling sailing class. That same year, they won gold at the World Championships in Miami, USA.

Sarah racing at the 2008 Olympic games with Pippa Wilson and Sarah Webb, when they won gold

Sarah was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours. Mother to Thomas and Oscar, Sarah is passionate about fitness with the family, getting outdoors and always looking for a new challenge. She retains an active interest in sport, including amateur horse racing. In 2016, Sarah was an Extreme Sailing Series Champion and the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year. Sarah is both an Inspirational Speaker and a Performance Coach. As an Inspirational Speaker, over the last decade Sarah has used her experience of performing at the highest level to deliver entertaining, motivational speeches. Her inspirational talks empower audiences to achieve their goals and inspire future success. As a Performance Coach, Sarah delivers personal training with expertise in achieving success and empowering her clients to be physically and mentally stronger. Sarah is an Athlete Mentor with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust; a UK youth sports charity which supports 11-25 year-olds who are harder to engage in both education and in the community. They achieve this by training and developing world class athletes to deliver personal, social and emotional development programmes for young people facing disadvantage. Through transformational mentoring, young people’s confidence, resilience and self-esteem increases which enables them to move into employment, become leaders within their communities, achieve in education and to improve their wellbeing through sport and physical activity. Sarah is an Ambassador for the UKSA; UKSA inspires and supports children & young people to broaden horizons through our life enhancing water-based adventures, education and training for careers at sea. They are the largest RYA training centre in the world, providing schools and groups activity programmes, full time education courses and professional career training in yachting and watersports. The UKSA are a leading Maritime Coastguard Agency training centre and run all of activity from their all-inclusive residential facility based in Cowes, the home of sailing. To find out more about Sarah, please visit her website.


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