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RYA in Detail

History, national governing body, membership organisation and more

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The RYA - Overview

The RYA is the national body for dinghy, yacht and motor cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sportsboats, windsurfing and personal watercraft and a leading representative for inland waterways cruising.

The RYA's history goes back to 1875, when it was founded as the Yacht Racing Association.  It became the Royal Yachting Association in 1952 (formally adopted on 25 February 1953).  Now universally known simply by its initials, the RYA remains constituted as a membership association to this day.

The RYA's day to day management is vested in a professional staff of 140, with the majority based at modern headquarters in Hamble on the UK’s South Coast.  Other staff work regionally while RYA Scotland, RYA Northern Ireland and RYA Cymru Wales are organised as autonomous bodies in their respective home countries.   

The RYA's income derives mainly from membership subscriptions and club affiliation fees, training activities, and the sale of RYA publications.  It receives some lottery funding which is 'ring-fenced' to support Britain's national sailing squad and its supporting development programme. The RYA's annual turnover is approximately £22m.

The RYA - Explained

1. A National Governing Body

The RYA administers the international racing rules of sailing (including windsurfing) in the UK.  Its coaching and development schemes actively support 800 of Britain's top sailors, from talented juniors to Olympic and World Champions.  Sailing is one of Britain’s most successful Olympic sports and Britain holds the No. 1 spot in the sport's international rankings.

Sport Development
Whatever your age or experience, we want to kindle, nurture, and support a life-long passion for boating in all its forms by all groups of participants.

The RYA has targeted participation programmes which provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to get out on the water including RYA OnBoard, RYA Sailability and RYA Active Marina.  

RYA Regional Development Officers work with clubs and training centres across the country to develop regular participation. Growing and marketing the sport is also a fundamental part of the RYA and the RYA Dinghy Show provides a national showcase for affiliated class associations, clubs and the industry.

Sport Administration and Governance
The RYA works widely with government and other organisations from the public, private, media and not for profit sectors.  It represents members’ interests on over 50 statutory and consultative committees in the UK and internationally.  It is widely held to be amongst the best-run and most progressive of all the UK sport’s national governing bodies.

Disabled Sailing
RYA Sailability; sailing and boating for disabled young people and adults.

The water offers a unique range of opportunities for disabled people to enjoy physical activity at all levels of ability and take part in competitive events. 

RYA Sailability has established more than 200 ‘accredited sites’ (sailing clubs or organisations with varying levels of accessible facilities) throughout the UK. 

2. A Membership Organisation

The RYA has over 110,000 personal members and 1,500 affiliated clubs and class associations.  The latter represent some 350,000 active sailors throughout the UK. 

Your membership:

  • Allows you to choose from one of four membership categories offering different types of membership tailored to best suit the boating you do
  • Combines your voice with over 110,000 RYA members, giving you peace of mind that we are working on your behalf to keep the boating you do free from unnecessary regulation
  • Gives you free boating related specialist legal, regulatory and technical advice and support from our experts
  • Access to over 70 reward partners working with us to cut the cost of your boating
  • Means you’ll feel part of the boating community sharing the same passion and making a positive difference to the boating you do

Find out more about RYA membership here.

3. Internationally Recognised Training

For sailing, windsurfing and powerboating at both recreational and professional levels.  

The RYA provides the world’s most widely recognised practical and theoretical training courses for boating, from novice to expert level, in all boating disciplines. 

Whilst RYA Training originated for leisure purposes more than 40 years ago, for the last 20 years the RYA has also developed an extensive suite of courses and statutory qualifications that are formally recognised for commercial use not only in the UK but also in more than 20 other countries around the world and informally by many others.

UK organisations that have adopted RYA training include the Royal Navy, RNLI, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the MoD, the Police and the Fire Service. RYA qualifications are also widely used within the superyacht and workboat sectors and our dinghy, windsurfing and power boating instructor qualifications are the qualifications of choice for those working within the watersports industry.

4. Commercial Activities

The RYA is a leading maritime publisher, with over 110 titles on its current list.  Its publications are highly regarded internationally and RYA titles have been translated into more than 20 foreign languages.

The membership magazine, RYA Magazine, has the highest circulation of all the UK’s leading boating magazines.

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