Almost 100 Cardiff schoolchildren were given the chance to take part in their first sailing regatta in Cardiff Bay over the weekend, thanks to the OnBoard scheme.
Having enjoyed started sessions at clubs, the children raced in 30 Laser Bug boats which were brought down from Northampton specially for the occasion.
OnBoard is a scheme to open up sailing as an opportunity for as many children as possible, developing social sailors as well as tying to find the next Ben Ainslie or Ellen MacArthur.
Almost 160,000 children have been through the scheme in 155 clubs nationally, with almost 8,000 going on to take up either sailing or windsurfing.
Children from primary schools Treganna and Coed-y-Gof enjoyed the morning sailing, while pupils from Radyr, Cardiff High, Llanishen and Whitchurch competed in the afternoon round a course in Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay.
South Wales OnBoard development officer Tom Herbert-Evans explained, “Every OnBoard officer has the chance to do a festival so every kid who has been going through OnBoard in clubs can come down as part of their school here to Cardiff Bay and compete in a little regatta.
“This morning we had 40 primary schoolchildren from two schools, while in the afternoon we had children from four secondary schools with a team of 10 from each.
“It was quite windy and I was impressed with the primary school kids coping with the conditions, it was quite a big step up for them. They enjoyed it and it was a different experience coming down here to the Bay and exciting for them.
“It is another insight into the sport and hopefully will encourage them to join a local club. It was only a third time in the water for some of the kids today and so I felt quite proud of them in that wind.
“They were showing off to the kayakers and the rowers. They have not done much capsizing, but I had done a little demo so they knew what to do and they could right the boat and came up smiling – which is the important thing.
“The clubs are really thriving on maximum capacity, partly because of OnBoard and the work of the clubs themselves. I think next year will see a massive increase in racing across South Wales.”
The success of the event delighted Welsh Yachting Association high performance manager Iwan Basten.
“It has been a partnership between the governing body Welsh yachting and the Cardiff Harbour Authority to bring schools into watersports on a massive participation basis,” he said.
“That means hundreds getting involved and thousands over the year. We are hoping that as many as possible will become sailors for life.
“We can only be as good as the numbers coming through the more there are then the more chance of someone special popping out at the top end. They will all have a good time, but as performance manager I am looking for someone special.
“Historically sailing clubs have had family-based approach memberships and has had an elitist view, but people do not really realise that it is a very cheap sport to learn - one of the cheapest club memberships you can have, the average junior club membership is between £15-30.”
Katie Ashworth, marketing manager Laser performance said, “We brought 30 Bug Lasers down from Northampton for the schoolchildren to try out the boats.
“We do it to promote sailing for different youth groups and obviously bringing our boats for people to try. We see sailing as a real key sport for children to have a go at and get involved in.
“It is a great sport for different types of teamwork, it is great for children’s confidence and I think they have all enjoyed it this afternoon.”
If you want to find out more about OnBoard then visit www.ruob.co.uk for more details about how you can get involved.