So who are we and what are we doing
Dinghy Racing for All
In early 2016 we took a long look at what had been happening in our flotilla over many years and saw that we were in the ‘bust’ cycle of Oppy boom and bust. A successful group of sailors and parents had just moved on to other classes or worse out of the sport. We had lots of beginners but only a fraction of these were carrying on to the point of owning a boat.
Sailing families could see where they were going but most of our beginners did not have a sailing background and would soon drift away to more structured and familiar sports. So if we were going to engage them what would we need to do?
We tried to imagine what sailing would need to look like to get children involved and keep those who wanted to pursue racing even if they didn’t have the resources or the parental knowledge.
We think the key ingredients are:
A sailor with enthusiasm and at least some parental support.
Regular consistent coaching from post beginners to performance level.
A welcoming, safe and fun environment at the club.
Transport for boats and sailors to events (so parents do not need to change their lifestyle).
Some super enthusiastic volunteers - it’s been lots of work to set up and coordinate.
A commitment to a different kind of coaching (we are always responsible for safeguarding on and off the water).
In practice, the way we are implementing it at Bewl Barbarians (Youth) Sailing Club is that parents see reduced cost as we support and train the sailors as a cooperative group, this is common in other sports. Our target is to have a "team” where half are from non-sailing families. To achieve this we use a mixture of professional coaching and our own efforts. We are not only concerned with helping sailors’ perform, but also teaching the sailors to be very self-sufficient and to work together as a team e.g. rigging their own boats (and guiding those new to the fleet) and loading them onto trailers to get to and from events. The training is based on continuity of these core values which allows the sailors to integrate what they learn through practice. We aim to maximise the productive time the young sailors spend on the water to fit their enthusiasm.
For regattas where we travel, the aim is to take up to 12 accomplished sailors with one coach/on water support person and one or two house parents to support the sailors. We are very aware of the duty of care and safeguarding requirements both on and off the water, this we can’t delegate - the parents of these sailors have entrusted their children to us!
We still have some way to go but we have a clear idea as to how we want to get there and look forward to having new ideas from different quarters as we move along the journey. The goal though, of increased participation across all levels of sailing and from sailing and non sailing families alike, is one we believe is well worth striving for.
We think we may be they only group systematically widening the appeal of competitive sailing as a sport to new families in this way. For us there is no divide in levels but a continuous process from stating to sail to competing at regattas.
As soon as we have a secure foundation for our Optimist fleet we hope to grow to include other RYA pathway classes.