With nominations for RYA Club of the Year 2018 opening in September we caught up with two previous winners who know exactly what it’s like to lift the trophy at the RYA Dinghy Show.
“Receiving that trophy was up there in the top two or three days of my life.”
Julie Archer, Sailing Secretary at Ullswater YC, doesn’t hold back when asked what being the 2017 RYA Club of the Year has meant to the Lake District club.
“I would say to any club apply. You have to answer four questions, 250 words each, that’s it, and what can come out of that really can really have such a huge impact.”
Ullswater was a real story of triumph in the face of adversity when they were revealed as the most recent award winners in March this year. But while Storm Desmond may have physically devastated the club in 2015, the spirit of the members and volunteers couldn’t be broken and now the club is busier than ever.
Julie believes being RYA Club of the Year has played no small part in that.
She continues: “We’ve had an upsurge in membership of more than 100 new applications this year, individuals and families, so that’s a lot of new people.
“After the floods we got a small local grant budget to support marketing and there’s no doubt being able to put the RYA Award winners logo on all our publicity material, leaflets and flyers this year has helped promote us nationally and locally.
“Our Marketing Officer, Sue Giles, has close contacts with the local and national marine press and having the award has helped consolidate those contacts as well as helping us to build close relationships with other organisations around Ullswater. ”
But while new members and partners may be flocking to the club, Julie believes the award played an equally important role in recognising the contribution of everyone who has helped the club go from “being a small club being run by a few volunteers, to a massive business being run by a few volunteers” over the past few years.
In May Ullswater held a special party where RYA Chairman, David Williamson, joined 150 people from the club and local community to celebrate the club’s successes of the past 12 months, while Julie admits when the club lifted the award at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show it felt like saying ‘thank you’ the whole club at the same time.
This appreciation and validation that what they are doing is right continues to galvanise members in terms of future-proofing the club and making it more sustainable, to continue giving local people the club and activities they want.
While Ullswater are still riding the crest of the RYA Club of the Year wave, so 2011 winners South Staffs SC are able to reflect on the award’s impact with hindsight.
Like Ullswater, South Staffs saw a lift in membership after their win but current Commodore James Croxford believes it’s only now they can judge just how significant the RYA Club of the Year award was in that.
He said: “When you can make the statement that you’re officially recognised as Britain’s best sailing club by the sport’s governing body to everyone who comes to, or you meet to talk about, the club, that’s extremely powerful.
“We probably didn’t notice just how powerful it was at the time. It’s only now when we’ve looked at membership and asked ‘why was there that spike?’ you could put it down to the raised profile and feel-good factor that was around the club.
“The club is so well used and there are so many different activities that go on, people don’t always put it all together. Winning the award helped shine a light on everything we do to all members, current and prospective, while also collectively saying ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ to the volunteers who make it all possible.”
Neil Hawkins was Commodore in 2011 and completed the application.
He continues: “The award showed in every department we were a model club and we didn’t know it! It was a real boost to realise we were doing all the right things.
“I’m sure it also helped us in our application for HRH The Princess Royal to come to our 60th anniversary celebrations in 2014, and I remember with great satisfaction when she referred to us as an example of a good sailing club in her speech.”
The best time for any high performing organisation to reflect and be critical about what they can do better is when they are at the peak of their powers, and James admits guarding against complacency remains a key concern at South Staffs.
He added: “For the first couple of years everything was about capitalising on the award, whether driving membership, building community relationships or bidding for grants. But then we had to take stock and ask if we were still doing things right.
“We set up a development group to look if we were still targeting the right areas and if we should be focusing on specific groups or potential customers. That work is ongoing and being a Club of the Year continues to provide a nice reminder and reference point that we have got a good track record of getting these things right.”
But for all the positive fallout from being an RYA Club of the Year, nothing can really beat that moment when you hear your club’s name read out as the winner on stage.
'I still watch the video of us receiving the award'
Over to Julie for the final word…
“If I’m having a bad day at work I still watch the video of us receiving the award and I know I’m not the only one who does that! It really matters.”
If your club would like to apply for RYA Club of the Year 2018 find more information about the award and the categories.