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Results: The health of our Midlands sailing clubs 

Three important reports are now out showing exactly how our clubs are doing

It’s been a fascinating couple of months of number crunching at RYA Towers as the results of this year’s RYA Club Membership Census, RYA Club Member Satisfaction Survey and RYA Vital Signs Survey are in.

Most of you will have completed at least one of these surveys this year, and when you look closely at what the results are telling us about what is happening in our Midlands clubs, you will see just how invaluable the time and effort spent on this is.

A quick recap

The three surveys set out to assess different aspects of clubs.

  • RYA Club Membership Census provides a picture of membership trends
  • RYA Club Member Satisfacation Survey to assess member satisfaction within clubs
  • RYA Vital Signs Survey to look at facilities, physical and capital health

And when you start to cross-reference the results from each some very interesting findings begin to emerge…

The headline news is club membership in the Midlands is growing and churn is decreasing, meaning there are now just under 20,000 club members in 88 Midlands clubs at an average of 235 per club - that's 20% increase from between 2013-2016.


It is believed that Midlands clubs are operating at around 73% of overall capacity, with an approximate capacity of 6,500 within our 88 clubs.

When clubs were asked in the Club Membership Census what activities they thought would produce membership growth, open days/tasters, word of mouth, club boats, less formal ‘offers’ and facility investment were the most popular responses.

Step forward the RYA Club Member Satisfaction Survey

This was completed by 52 invited clubs nationwide, and the most interesting outcome from this research was that reasons suggested for membership growth patterns in the Midlands in the census were reflected in this survey’s findings.

The Midlands clubs that are growing their membership do have more informal training offers and focus a greater proportion of their club activity to non-racers.


The most popular initiatives to make people participate more often were better social and participation opportunities catering for all the family and more informal ‘training’ opportunities to develop competence and confidence.


Meanwhile, the proportion of members being introduced through the traditional route of by a parent or other family member has fallen by about 40% since the '60s, while open/taster day engagement accounts for almost a fifth of newcomers.

This all comes with a word of warning.

While the headline figures look impressive over four years, the growth over three years is much less rapid. This is not a reason for clubs to sit back and think they’ve got it sussed. Rather Gareth Brookes, RYA Midlands Regional Development Officer, believes clubs need to be looking at how the growths have occurred and tap in.

He said: “I was actually quite surprised by the level of growth, I expected a small increase but not 20%. When you break it down, the clubs growing the most are contributing a fair chunk of that, so as a region we should be wary of complacency.

“If your club isn’t one of those that is growing, with these survey results, we now have hard evidence to look at what is making a real difference to gaining new memberships and retaining them.

“There is no doubt that the number one intervention is to increase activity potential for people to do more training, not formal RYA training, but just opportunities to go sailing with some coaching, the Friday friendlies type stuff, that really works.

“I should add that the RYA Club Membership Census was completed by 91% of clubs, making the findings extremely reliable and giving us a great reference point from which to be able to support each of our clubs in exactly the way they need.”


Last but not lease

When it come to the RYA Vital Signs survey one finding stood out above all others – almost a quarter (23%) of our Midlands clubs identified their ability to review lease/licence as the biggest threat to the club’s existence. That is a huge number.

The message? If you’re lease has 5-10 years to run, you need to contact the RYA Legal team. If you have less than five years you need to contact the RYA Legal team right now! It can take this long to renegotiate a lease or licence so the sooner you can start the better. Need some advice now? Click here – Lease Renewals


However Gareth insists that although lease negotiations are clearly incredibly important, everything else cannot go on hold whilst you try to secure the club’s future.

He continues: “Getting your lease or licence renewed is obviously incredibly important. But the clubs that have managed this most successfully have set up a separate sub-committee or group to work on this while the rest of the club management and development planning continues as normal.

“We have examples of even big clubs whose membership fell into a spiraling decline because the renegotiations consumed everyone’s time and effort. What use is somewhere to sail if you’ve got no one to sail there? You need to get the balance.”

He added: “We know being asked to complete so many surveys can be arduous for clubs but when you get the quality of data these three pieces of research have yielded it benefits everyone, so a huge thank you for all your time and efforts.”

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