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The truth about the Honda Youth RIB Championship 

Why what you think about HYR probably isn't true

We're still not quite sure what it is. But mention the possibility of running Honda RYA Youth RIB heats or entering the regional area finals and there are still clubs that clam up and get nervous.

But if you were at the RYA Midlands Affiliated Clubs Conference and heard South Staffs SC Commodore, Annette Fitzpatrick, stand up and spontaneously wax lyrical about why her club is such an ardent supporter of the programme then it should have at least planted the seed of possibility.

South Staffs SC, after all, have won two brand new Highfield 460 RIBs with Honda BF50 engines in the last three years thanks to the success of their young sailor, Kamila Czartolomna, at the National Finals. Another Midlands club, Girton SC, also won the same in 2015 after their sailor, Max Mawer, won the National title.

That's over £36,000 worth of new kit in total that will help to support both clubs achieve their aims to develop the skills of their sailors. Note the use of the words 'sailors' throughout this.

Among the biggest misconceptions some clubs hold about the competition is they are a sailing not powerboat club, they couldn't get insurance, the youngsters will all want to drive powerboats instead of learning to sail, want to speed around on the water being a danger to everyone else and they will use fuel, wear out and break engines and steering gear. Etc, etc.

So here Steve Troke, one of South Staffs powerboat trainers (and Senior Instructors), details exactly how and why his club have turned the Honda RYA Youth RIB challenge into an integral part of their junior training programme. It's worth reading on...

All sailing clubs can get new people to join, keeping them as long standing members is the silver bullet

Juniors in general are easy to teach, eager to learn new skills, and sailing being our sole reason for existing we naturally want them to sail. Keep your juniors and you will almost certainly retain the parents as members. But none of this happens if they don't have fun. This is where I sincerely believe the Honda RYA Youth RIB helps.

Our reasons for teaching powerboating early is to give them a good grounding at a young age

Teaching safe driving early has proved so beneficial to our club over the last 15 years. We've trained many youngsters in this time and nearly all are still very active members. A lot are sailing instructors and a couple are powerboat instructors too. Many are using their skills in the wider sailing world too.

Early in the year we invite our Juniors to attend a Basic Level One course.

There are mainly two PB Instructors that give up one or two Saturdays – 0900hrs till 1500hrs – and we spend time looking at the boats, engine and equipment. The youngsters are all eager and asking questions, such as “How fast can we go” or “Will we sink if the RIB deflates”? And we tell them, the boat can go about 25mph and no, it won't sink and why. They learn about kill cords and starting procedures are all done as a full Level One course would be. Then we move onto leaving moorings, slow speed manoeuvring and correct gear and throttle control, steering around several markers, changing directions from time to time.

We have jokes about who is going to blow up the boat with their mouth if sponsons are soft 

Making it fun and relating things to real life keeps them engaged. For example we make them think about launching problems they could find if at the seaside. I've had rocks, tide out even ice cream vans! All great fun.

Each child has about 45 minutes in total driving that day

Although they will be a passenger on a boat much longer, absorbing information being passed on by the instructors and learning from the other juniors in their boat. We will let them do a higher speed run too, just to get it out of their system. We invite all the juniors but set a limit on those we can take so they all get good time driving. To filter the numbers we say everyone who wants to come must be able to attend both the RYA Area Heats and National Finals in Southampton. That keeps our numbers to a safe, manageable level.

Throughout all training we keep reiterating the importance of safety above all else

We think full explanations, although sometimes a bit gory, are important to get our points home. After both training days they all love it and absorb so much of what you have said. We then must choose the four to six sailors we think would be the most responsive to further training that year. They all attend knowing they can come again next year for more if they don't get picked for the Area finals this year.

Then it's about time in a boat, any odd time

Sailors get to train 15 minutes before junior sailing starts, after the session, lunchtimes, or if sufficient PB and instructor are available, in a quiet part of the lake. Within a month they are, under supervision, doing their own engine checks, leaving and coming alongside, picking up buoys. That’s all it takes.

The rewards are so plain to see here at South Staffs

We didn't set out to win the Honda Youth RIB, we just saw the value of the programme for teaching young sailors skills we think are really important and beneficial to the club. I hope this helps remove any barriers you may have about giving this junior training a go. I'm sure, after a very short time, you will reap some big rewards, and I'm not talking about winning the Championship. I think it's a real shame many other clubs don't seem to recognise the benefits. South Staffs at one time had this same view but we've proved it does pay off.

 Honda RYA Youth RIB workshops will be run at February's Midlands Instructor Training Day so instructors can have a go at the challenge and learn how to run training and an event at their club or Training Centre. See Gareth's Gossip for what else is on and booking details. 

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