The RYA Dinghy and Coaching schemes were introduced in 1970 to assist clubs and sailing schools by providing a national syllabus and method of learning to sail. 50 years on, the RYA has a network of more than 2,400 recognised training centres in 58 countries worldwide and supports the delivery of over 100 different courses.
Each year more than 270,000 undertake some form of RYA training, developing the skills and knowledge to stay safe and have fun on the water.
Maybe a dinghy sailing course kick-started a lifelong love of racing? A powerboat course gave you the skills and confidence to help out with club safety boat duties? Or perhaps you’re an instructor, giving something back to your local community and sharing your passion with others?
For Amanda Van Santen, Chief Instructor of the RYA Dinghy and Windsurfing training schemes, it all started at Bury Lake Young Mariners (BLYM) when she was just 12-years-old.
Amanda visits Bury Lake Young Mariners
Earlier this year, Amanda returned to BLYM and met with Principal and Chief Instructor, Rob Arthur. Here, we find out more about how RYA training has impacted both of their stories…
In her 15 years at the RYA, Amanda has taken the dinghy sailing and windsurfing schemes from strength to strength, most notably with the introduction of foiling and developing the provision of RYA training in China. “My proudest moment? It would have to be actually getting my job here at the RYA,” she explains. “There have been so many milestones since that time, it’s hard to pinpoint just one.
“The actual way we teach hasn’t changed very much in the last 50 years, there’s only really one way to teach someone to sail or windsurf, but the developments in equipment have been incredible. I doubt anyone thought we’d be hovering over the water with foiling boats and boards 50 years ago!”
Prior to landing her dream job, the watersports industry and more specifically RYA training, provided another option for Amanda when things didn’t quite work out as planned.
“I’ve always been an avid water person,” she explains. “I come from a really academic family and when university didn’t work out for me, RYA training gave me a pathway and the qualifications to get into an industry I loved – without it I’d have been very lost.
“I’ve had so many amazing experiences from being an RYA instructor,” she continued. “Some of the funniest I probably can’t share – there’s never a dull moment in the watersports industry! But the nicest is when you teach someone and years later you see they have stuck with it, have joined programmes like Team15 and become an instructor themselves. Its cases like that when you know you’ve done your job right.”
Amanda enjoying time on the water with her son
Despite now spending most of her working life behind a desk, Amanda still gets out on the water with her family whenever she can. “Sailing has the ability to do so much for people, providing truly amazing opportunities that may not previously have been available to them,” she concludes.
“For me, it was the ability to progress my passion - there aren’t many people that can say their passion is both their hobby as well as their job!”
Located on the picturesque Rickmansworth Aquadrome just outside London, Bury Lake Young Mariners is a youth charity organisation run entirely by a team of young volunteers. At the helm is 20-year-old Rob, who fits running the busy training centre in around his university studies.
The centre is closely linked with local schools and community groups, delivering 5000 sessions a year and giving more than 10,000 people the opportunity to get out on the water.
“Since Amanda learnt to sail here the club has changed dramatically,” says Rob. “At that time I can’t imagine there would have been more than 30 children here each week.
“RYA training has helped our centre be more desirable. Rather than just being a club, we’re able to provide something that’s internationally recognised. It helps us to create a safe environment for mixed ability sailors and has also helped us to bring in new members which is necessary for the club’s existence.”
Development of the BLYM boat house over the years
As a charity, the club’s development and success is all down to volunteer efforts and fundraising. “Our biggest challenge is being a charity running to the capacity of a commercial centre,” explains Rob. “We don’t have a single paid member of staff, but that’s what makes us special and looking forward, we don’t want that to change.”
For Rob personally, qualifying as an RYA instructor and getting involved with BLYM has had a huge impact on his life: “There aren’t many 20-year-olds that get the opportunity to run a busy training centre and still be a university student at the same time!” he explains. “Bury Lake, through the RYA has given me a home and sense of belonging.”
Rob out on the water
“For me, RYA training is all about creating a fun and engaging way to teach sailing and promote safe boating. It provides children and adults from all backgrounds with an opportunity to learn new skills and the confidence to communicate effectively. It’s also a great opportunity to meet lots of new people.
“We’re really lucky to have such a wide variety of volunteers at BLYM and the fact we can all work so well together is largely down to the skills we’ve all gained through RYA training and becoming instructors,” he explains.
“I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if I’d not had the structure and clear pattern of learning.”