In 2017, a record 3.96m UK adults (7.4 of the UK adult population) participated in one or more of 12 core boating activities* according to latest Watersports Participation Survey released this week, the highest volume recorded since the research initiative was first launched in 2002.

This figure equates to 461,000 more adults taking part in boating activities in 2017 compared to the previous year. Motorboating, as well as canoeing, saw the largest increase in participation rising by 186,000 (a 0.4 percentage point increase).

Sailing activities overall are also up by 187,000 with only small boat sailing activities slightly down from 2016 figures. The number of people taking part in powerboating activities in 2017 has risen by 311,000.

The volume of those adults participating in one of the 12 core boating activities six or more times in a year has increased again since 2016.

The survey also found that despite challenges to consumer confidence and an unsettled economy in the wake of Brexit negotiations, boat ownership has also increased, with more than 690,000 boat owning households in the UK.

RYA Director of Sport Development Alistair Dickson said: “It is really encouraging that we are continuing to see a growth in the number of people who getting out on the water and enjoying boating and watersport activities. The research also tells us that the proportion of ‘enthusiasts’ has continued to increase over the last year which supports the work we are doing alongside our clubs and centres to encourage regular participation.

“Comparing the data in the long term, we can see there is a decrease in participation across sailing and boating activities compared to ten years ago. The challenge now is to continue to look to the future and learn as much as we can about how and what people want from their activities”.

The Watersports Participation Survey is conducted annually by a consortium of leading marine bodies including British Marine, Royal Yachting Association, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, British Canoeing and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. The survey and report provide these organisations with wide ranging information and statistics to support the development of measures to encourage greater participation in watersports, to monitor on/in water activity and safety, and the impact on the environment.

An executive summary of the report is available here

The full report is available to download for British Marine member companies from the British Marine website.