The Princess Royal and Sir Ben Ainslie applaud the resilience of sailing clubs at RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference

23 Nov 20

HRH The Princess Royal and Sir Ben Ainslie were amongst the key speakers who shared messages of support and applauded the resilience of sailing clubs across the UK at the RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference, on Saturday 21 November.

More than 1,000 delegates from 400 sailing clubs as far afield as Cornwall and Bermuda joined the thought-provoking virtual event hosted by Shirley Robertson, to look back on the challenges of 2020 and explore the opportunities that lie ahead.

One of the highlights of the day was a messagefrom the RYA President, HRH The Princess Royal, who thanked volunteers for the innovativeways that they have adapted following lockdown.

“Volunteers have continued to support their clubs, classes and committees, helping their communities return to boating and giving people the confidence to enjoy being on and off the water as safely as possible,” said the RYA President, HRH The Princess Royal.


Earlier in the day, Sir Ben Ainslie shared some of his experiences responding to the challenges that INEOS Team UK faced during the pandemic. In a recorded interview, he highlighted the importance of his home club, the impact of volunteers on the sport and how it felt for him to be back on the water following lockdown.

Sir Ben explained: “Getting out on the water after lockdown was a really refreshing moment. Just that sensation of the water rippling under the hull of the boat as I left the pontoon and that sense of freedom that we all get when we are out on the water. It had been about three months since I’d been on the water previously and I realised how much I’d missed it and what a wonderful sport we’re all involved in.”

Sport England Board Member and Strategist Chris Grant treated delegates to an inspirational live talk ‘I can see clearly now’ which discussed the opportunities to progress diversity within the sport. He also shared his practical wisdom on how clubs can make the right decisions and implement change.

RYA Chair Chris Preston, RYA CEO Sarah Treseder, and RYA Northern Ireland Chief Operating Officer, Richard Honeyford also shared their thoughts on the impact the global pandemic has had on the sport and highlighted the opportunities and support available for clubs as they look to welcome participants back.

 “We recognise just how challenging 2020 hasbeen for everyone involved in running clubs throughout the UK, and I’d like tosay a most sincere thank-you to all those who have gone to such extraordinarylengths to keep our clubs afloat” said Sarah Treseder. 

“I hope you will make the most of the RYAsupport available and continue to diversify and adapt your offer to thesefast-changing times. Above all, finding new ways to broaden the diversity ofour collective membership, and to keep those who joined the boating communityduring 2020 engaged over the months to come. We are all looking forward to theopportunities 2021 will bring, from the inspiration of the Tokyo Olympic Gamesto the chance to get serious about Sustainability. Until then stay positive andstay safe.”

The event was followed by a series of Club Development webinars include recruiting and managing volunteers, environmental sustainability, reducing membership churn, engaging local communities, delivering a great experience to a wider audience, and promoting clubs to potential new members.

What happens now?

 The conference and webinar streams are available to watch back until 11th January

The conference also featured 12 club case study videos which we hope will inspire you to explore what your club could do differently in 2021.

We're in the process of planning our 2021 forums, webinars and club case studies so please get in touch if there is a topic you would like us to cover. Email