Benefits of boating for kids


Why do we sail? Well, the most common answer is that it’s lots of fun! But what makes it so fun, particularly for young people? 

Is it the fact that whilst sailing you are often for the first time at the control of uncontrollable elements like the wind and the tide? Is it being in control of your course, speed and destination and being relatively free to roam where you want? Or maybe it’s just being outside with friends, messing about on the water! Whatever the reason, it’s not only really good fun, but also helps young people to develop and get on in life.

“There is an almost universal consensus that character as well as exam results, has a significant role to play in shaping young people’s life chances, and these character ‘skills’ are much sought after by employers too,” explains Professor Bill Lucas, Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning and Professor of Learning at the University of Winchester, who has worked with the RYA in developing their OnBoard programme.

“When youngsters start making connections between sailing and their real lives in two or three areas, then these traits develop, start to transfer more naturally and instinctively, and become embedded in a person’s character.”

Gaining independence

Becoming more independent has helped 17-year-old, Krishan Bhogal both on and off the water. Coming from a non-sailing family, Krishan developed a passion for sailing through his local RYA OnBoard club, and in 2013 was awarded a Topper through OnBoard’s partnership with the John Merricks Sailing Trust.

“The independence and skills I’ve gained from sailing, I don’t think I’d have got from anywhere else. I do my fitness programme because I want to, because I see the performance gains. I finished my GCSEs last year and sailing really helped my organisation. I felt a lot calmer than most people going in as I was used to high-pressure situations. Everything that happens on the water is my own responsibility. I really like that,” explains Krishan.

Building confidence

Having lost her father in 2014, Nicola Stockdale focussed on her sailing, developing her teaching skills, volunteering as an instructor and devoting more than 500 hours to her local club. The 19-year-old is now considering a career in sailing, with aspirations to become a Yachtmaster having found that being part of a team has built her confidence and skills.

Nicola said: “The work I do at my club has moulded me as a person, I take on much more of a leadership role, even with my friends, and I’ve developed so many skills. I was a bit reserved when I first came. I was quiet and wouldn’t really talk to many people, but being involved at the club has shaped me. And sailing, windsurfing and working at the club have changed the direction of my life. I love the collaboration of being involved and having fun with my friends. That team spirit is great.”

Get OnBoard!

The RYA OnBoard programme was relaunched in 2017 with a new focus on the broader learning benefits of sailing and windsurfing. It is open to anyone aged 8-18 and offers the opportunity to try out sailing and windsurfing in a safe, structured and fun environment.

For more information about RYA OnBoard and how you can get involved visit