Sold-out SW Cruising Conference creates a buzz

First SW Cruising Conference since 2018 is a great success
23 Mar 23
Penny Tranter presents a workshop to delegates sitting at tables, with a weather map on the screen.
The first SW Cruising Conference since 2018 took place at South Devon College Marine Academy on 11 March and was a sell-out success. Attendance exceeded all expectations, and bookings were closed over a week before the event because they had reached the venue’s capacity. 

Highlights of the day 

Mel Hide, the RYA Director of External Affairs, gave a wide-ranging presentation on The work of the RYA in supporting Cruising Sailors. RYA support includes lobbying government, providing legal representation, campaigning on topics such as red diesel, balancing environmental issues with boaters’ rights (a challenge the RYA is addressing head on), supporting sea grass growth and the Remedies project, and increasing diversity in sailing. Mel introduced the audience to The Green Blue pledge, a boaters’ pledge to protect, respect and enjoy our waters, and many people in the room signed up to it on the day. She spent most of the day at the conference, talking to delegates and answering questions during the coffee and lunchtime breaks.

Guest speakers Tom Mansell from the RNLI and Peter Newman from Border Force were both engaging and entertaining, giving humorous examples while still showing the seriousness and importance of the work they do. 

Good feedback

The most positive feedback from attendees was about the workshops. Penny Tranter’s weather session was extremely popular, and Nita Walding from Ocean Safety was delighted with the engagement of the delegates, and how informed their in-depth questions about equipment were. Andy Wright delivered a superb session on electronic navigation and Ian Nuttall, a lecturer at the college, discussed common engine problems in his workshop.

An instructor with his back to us presents to an audience
Over 60% of the delegates came from the South Devon area, Plymouth, Dartmouth, Torbay, Exeter and Starcross. The rest came from across the whole region including Falmouth, North Cornwall, Taunton, Gloucestershire, Bristol and Wiltshire.

There was a real buzz during the coffee and lunch breaks and great interaction with the exhibitors and speakers. Nearly 20 of the attendees were non-members, but as a result of the event some have now joined the RYA.

One attendee wrote: “Thank you for all the hard work that goes into this type of event and I look forward to the next one, hopefully in the not too distant future”, while another said: “I have let my RYA membership lapse so will renew.”

Co-organiser Ian Fenton, lecturer and RYA Principal from the college, commented: “All in all a rewarding day with great support from the South West Team members who attended. The topics covered were well received and the workshops were well presented with keen participation by the delegates.” 

Deputy Chair of the SW Regional Volunteer Team, Bob Penfold added: “We have received a number of really constructive suggestions and ideas and we want it to get bigger and better, so we’d welcome anyone who would like to get involved in the planning of next year’s Cruising Conference. Please email me at”

Huge thanks go to all the presenters and to South Devon College for hosting the event, allowing people to enjoy viewing their new facility.

The exterior of the Marine Academy building, with RYA Training Centre flag.