“What if sailing was an opportunity for all? How do we ensure that there is a diversity of families accessing sailing at the Royal Torbay Yacht Club and that sport on the water is an inclusive option, no matter what background you are from?”
Steve Huish is Training Principal at the Royal Torbay Yacht Club. He wanted to concentrate on ensuring that no-one was left out of the fun sailing in the club’s junior section, Squadron 13, which welcomes children aged 8 to 18 and boasts 50% female participation amongst members and instructors.
After watching the children move up through the ranks using club boats, he thought it was expecting too much of parents to suggest they purchase an expensive dinghy to allow the 15 to 17-year-olds to progress into club racing with a view, potentially, to sailing in national events.
Instead, he came up with a small £500 budget that could in many cases be achievable without putting too much strain on family resources, so allowing those without adequate finances to use the club boats and without putting too much pressure on the children to perform: “It didn’t take long to think of a boat at that price that would tick all the boxes; loads of spares, easy to store, easy to rig, a massive following, extremely competitive, not to mention raced in the Olympics! A Laser! With some sensible haggling you can get a decent bit of kit with an abundance of spares that are more than often gifted or donated by other club members. Worst case, if the boat doesn’t get used, it will definitely sell again without hurting the pocket in the process.
“Get a £500 Laser and the youngsters are off racing. Interestingly, what we have noticed is that they are racing competitively against extremely good club racers and, despite their cheaper options, they are beating them - who would have thought?! There is no need to spend £5000 plus and buy a shiny new boat to get on the water. We are inclusive - old or young, experienced or a newcomer, we can all have some cheap fun on the water.”
Squadron 13 now boasts four Lasers, with Steve having helped the parents to refurbish their ‘bargain boats’. The youngsters love them, and one owner, Tommy Huish, won the Late Summer Series and the Most Promising Sailor award at club’s prizegiving this year.
“Sailing does not have to be an exclusive sport,” concludes Steve. You don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy life on the water and it is important that people know this. There are plenty of options to get into sailing where the costs are affordable. This could be through crewing on a larger boat, teaming up children in double-handers on a club boat or even owning your own reasonably priced boat. There are options out there for everyone to be involved.”