Converting Level 1 sailors into regulars is one of the biggest challenges clubs face.
You know your club is fantastic to be part of; that it's sociable and that racing, at whatever level, is fun. But helping new sailors to experience that quickly is another thing altogether. Post-course drop off is common.
The RYA's Go Sailing initiative was launched to help bridge that gap and to nurture newcomers through an informal pathway to falling in love with the sport. But could the introduction of a Novices Rep provide an extra push? Rudyard Lake SC have found Novice Reps made a huge difference to their retention. Now they are already planning how to make even more of an impact on getting novices going sailing in 2017.
One of the reps, Ian Lee, who took on the role last year in conjunction with fellow rep Bruce Carter, explains how they have made it work.
"People on the L1 course often ask what happens next. That’s exactly what
I asked in 2015 when my wife, Wendy, and I did the course. As a novice myself I do understand the mindset and the challenges faced by novices.
"We decided we needed to pay attention to the novice sailors, and engage with them in an active way, because we’ve managed to get them interested and have trained them to at least RYA Level 1.
"We know the first stages of sailing are often daunting, so there are a number of options and support available to them in their early months and years of sailing."
Ian and Bruce worked with the Membership Secretary to create an accurate novice mailing list. With the support of the committee the one-off joining fee for training members was scrapped too as this was found to be a barrier to training members becoming full members. Worse still it was a barrier that was completely invisible to the majority of members, who paid this many years earlier.
In addition a number of Go Sailing activities were established, complete with safety cover and informal coaching made available and all of which included a significant social element. Members were around to help novices check their boat was rigged ok and there was the opportunity to try different boats too. The coaching was demand-led and adapted to meet the different needs of the novice members.
These Go Sailing sessions included:
- Family / novice sailing sessions run for two hours after Saturday youth training - these sessions help to encourage parents to sail, often the children like to take their parents out or sail alongside them.
- Go Sailing Sunday mornings in June and July - these sessions were followed with lunch and club racing in the afternoon, which also encouraged novices to have a go at racing, sometimes as crew for an experienced racer or on their own. Help and advice was on hand if they wanted it.
- Social Sailing on Wednesdays - run in the afternoon with tea and cakes available from 5ish. There is the club race in the evening followed by a lovely hot meal and the bar is open. The fact this meal was prepared by one of the novices, who happens to be a Michelin chef, made these sessions VERY popular! Several members attending the evening race started going to the club earlier for a sail or to work on their boats knowing others would be around too.
Ian continues: "I actively engaged with the novices and helped foster a sense of camaraderie between the novices, encouraging them to sail together in the club’s two-crew dinghies. The safety boat provision and on-hand instructors also really helped novices to get out on the water.
"I also encouraged them with my own weekly tales of misfortune as I endeavoured to be a better sailor through the club's Commodore's Cogitations blog. A special Novice-focused webpage was also created providing advice on the best sessions for people to attend, choosing a boat, social information, how to start racing and how to contact myself and Bruce to talk through any questions they have."
With all this running until October, there's only been a short break before the novices can now attend an Novice Membership Orientation Day, run by Ian, this month, helping people get the most out of their membership in 2017 and covering the basics on how to make good use of the facilities, join in racing and more.
Tricia Ordsmith, club President, concluded: "Ian and Bruce did an excellent job in developing and supporting the novice group. All their efforts resulted in more novices regularly coming down to the club, both sailing and joining in club activities."
Want to know more? Contact Tricia via the RYA Midlands Contacts page, and she will be delighted to provide further advice on making a Novice Rep work.
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