Have you got a university or higher education college on your doorstep that could help support your OnBoard activities?

Tata Steel SC in Port Talbot has, and student sailors from Swansea University have helped the club introduce OB and deliver sailing and windsurfing sessions. The result? The club reaching local youngsters they just would not have been able to otherwise, introducing them to sailing and feeding them into their junior training.

The partnership is proving so beneficial that one of these young sailors, Poppy Shingler, successfully competed at the South and West Wales OnBoard Acorn Llangorse Regatta in September, finishing second in the OB Oppi Bat Regatta Fleet, and then winning that fleet at the RYA Cymru Wales Zones Championships at the end of the month.

So how exactly are the Swansea students making a difference? Sam Healy, South Wales Club Development Officer, explains.

Tata Steel SC had moved away from offering one-off taster sessions as they found they got no retention from these and they were a waste of volunteer time and effort. It is not a big club and volunteer resource and time is stretched as it is, so to provide a way to introduce local youngsters to sailing they had to think differently.

“Swansea University’s sailing club sail at the club every Wednesday afternoon, so the club struck an agreement with them so that after they have finished their own sailing, they then run OB sessions for sailing and windsurfing from 4.30pm-6pm.

“After four to six weeks they then had the young sailors over for the club’s junior training on Sunday mornings. It’s a really nice partnership. It doesn’t do massive numbers but it gives the chance for local kids to try sailing that probably wouldn’t have done otherwise and without having to commit to a 10-week training course.”

The sessions are run for four to six weeks in April/May, depending on timetabling and when Easter has fallen, and cost just £5, including temporary club membership.

They are advertised to local schools and through Tata Steel SC’s own promotion channels with youngsters signing up as individuals to take part. The sessions follow the Youth Sailing Scheme and the sailors complete their Stage 1 and 2 certificates in that time.

All the students are very accomplished sailors, including many ex-RYA squad racers, who are all Dinghy Instructors with a number of Senior Instructors too. And it’s that which fuels the university’s enthusiasm to such an extent that the volunteering has become an integral part of the their student sailing programme.

Sam continues: “The students get a lot out of it too, it looks great on their CVs volunteering and having links with the local community and they enjoy it too. They are all really good young people who are great role models for the kids, and because they are all still young themselves, they are more in touch with the sailors as well.

“To further incentivise the university to maintain the partnership, I have supported the student sailing club with grant applications for new equipment and also helped subsidise instructor training for the students.

“In the students’ first year I identify the volunteers who will be proactive for two years and who we will consider subsidising for SI training. This has to be the right students that we believe will carry on making a contribution to RYA Training, and getting more people sailing, long after their university days are over.”

Sam says you only have to look at Poppy Shingler’s progress to see the value of the relationship, as she only started sailing with the students in April this year and by the end of September had not only competed in the OB Acorn Llangorse Regatta but at the Welsh Zone Championships in the Regatta fleet too.

She added: “This is a way that the club have found to source reliable, keen volunteers without having to exhaust their own volunteer base. I am there for the first couple of sessions to make sure everything is ok, then it’s over to the students.

“This Wednesday afternoon OB activity is the only way the club has to engage with more youngsters. It’s a perfect arrangement for a small sailing club and a model I’m sure other could follow too.”