During the past month, the OnBoard Fleets have been taking place up and down the country as part of the Regional Junior Championships.
The Fleets are a great way for youngsters to enjoy their first taste of travelling to a different location whilst having fun, making new friends and learning new skills.
The 8 – 13-year-olds enjoyed lots of fun activities with the focus around ‘games with aims’ rather than racing. The games were also designed with OnBoard character attributes in mind, such as displaying teamwork, independence, determination and communication in mind.
Everyone who attended also received a medal and a cap from OnBoard official supplier, Barton Marine.
With nearly 50 children taking part, the combined South and South West regions OnBoard Fleet took to the water at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in Dorset, with the largest group of OB youngsters of any of the regattas.
On the Saturday, the youngsters enjoyed reaching across the wind, as well as collecting tennis balls at one end and sailing to another end before dropping into containers. This required teamwork and communication between those in the boat but also with the other sailors, to do this as quickly as possible. The youngsters also did some landings on the beach and off again. Again, focusing on these character attributes.
Sunday brought perfect conditions of sunshine and a decent 10 knots of breeze. During the morning the Fleet was split into groups. The young sailors sailed with a friend each but they didn’t necessarily know anyone else in their group. This was so the youngsters could build up their confidence, which is an OnBoard character attribute, as well as making new friends.
In the afternoon the youngsters practiced their backward sailing with some fun racing. The whole group also came together and enjoyed some starts and sailing around a diamond course, which for some was their first time attempting this challenge.
Susie Moore, Regional Development Officer for the South said: “At this year’s event there were many more youngsters in the OnBoard Fleet that have never sailed away from their home club, which is not unsurprisingly following the Covid lockdowns. So this was their first experience of sailing at a new venue with new instructors, but also a first experience of sailing on the sea for some too. Sailing in not only a new environment but also with new people helps build the youngsters’ independence and confidence.”
James Oborne, Chief Instructor & Boatswain at Spinnaker Sailing Club added: “Our sailors came away from the weekend even more enthusiastic about their sailing than before! After lots of fun in the OnBoard Fleet, and having seen the Regatta and Main Fleets racing, our younger sailors are now keen to push their racing ready for next year. Our racers have come away knowing where they want to go next and what to work on for more success next year.”
There were plenty of games, laughter and new friendships made at the East Fleet at Grafham Water. Working on developing the OnBoard character attributes in the young sailors, who were all aged under 13 and relatively new to sailing, there was an emphasis on teamwork, determination, independence, confidence, communication and creativity
Thirteen young sailors took part in the East Region activities at Grafham Water, where they enjoyed everything from teambuilding exercises where they took part in the ‘Lego Challenge’ and were required to rebuild models through communication, to adventure sails to destinations including Fossil Beach, treasure hunts and much more – and all came back with huge smiles on their faces.
With some sailors having been nervous at the start of the day to take part, these nerves quickly dissipated in favour of excitement – and a great weekend’s sailing was enjoyed by all. Seeing the other fleets (Coached Regatta and Championship fleets), where over 220 young sailors were sailing on the same piece of water also proved inspirational for the young sailors, having something to aspire to in future years.
Katie, whose daughter Scarlett sailed in the East Fleet, said: “Scarlett has really struggled with her confidence on the water over the past few months…You’ve turned her view of being in a boat around, taught her an awful lot of sailing skills and made her feel much happier about being on the water – an extremely successful weekend!”
Whilst Julia, whose daughter also sailed in the East Fleet, commented “Milly said it was the most fun she’s ever had sailing. Her favourite part was the Lego game”.
Jacob’s father Josh added “I was very impressed with the coaching. A nice mix of old and young instructors giving a really good dynamic between learning and just having fun. Jacob loved the weekend, and it was a huge achievement from you all”.
The junior and OnBoard Fleets at the Midlands Regional Junior Championships enjoyed a warm up from Olympian Alison Young. Eighteen OnBoarders took to the water at Carsington Sailing Club.
Whilst for the North Championship Fleet it was a slow start waiting for the wind, although this didn’t stop the 23 young OnBoarders getting on the water at Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club.
Likewise, light winds affected the London and South East Championships, so there were lots of smiley faces once the wind filled in.
In a change from the traditional September schedule, the Regional Junior Championships and OnBoard Fleets will be moving to early summer in 2022, hopefully enabling better weather for competitors and longer evenings for after-racing social activities.