I am really loving this role, unfortunately there just aren’t enough hours in the day! It has been fantastic being able to get out to clubs speaking with participants, although sometimes it can be quite daunting arriving at a club and not knowing a sinner. I have had the opportunity to see a variety of clubs and witness their dedication and hard work to make things happen. Volunteers provide so much support within their home clubs and they are the key to making activity happen on and off the water. I have also had the pleasure of diving into the world of sailability after speaking with Marty Ansfield from Lough Erne Yacht Club. Marty has been heavily involved for many years in the engagement of disabled sailors and development of Lough Erne Yacht Clubs sailability programme. His patience, dedication and encouragement towards the sailors is truly inspiring. Weather has disrupted a few of my outings (that’s just the nature of our sport!), which has had a knock-on effect to clashing activities and events throughout the province. However, I have been able to keep track of changes and attend most of the activity within clubs.
I have organised workshops prior to the next season, examples of these are: Autism in coaching with DSNI, Onboard training day for coaches and Safeguarding courses with SPNI. Additionally, I have been working with Lindsay and Kate around collating the RYA Census.
I have also been engaged with supporting planning for the Women on Water Festival for 2024 although this is still early days. Women on water is a passion of mine and it has been amazing to hear the stories from women and how much they have enjoyed the WOW programme, also hearing what their next steps are within sailing. Some have gone on to complete their level 1 and 2 courses, keel boating, racing, others have been considering competent crew and powerboating. The social side has also been a big hit. Some of the next steps can come across as unclear, however I know this is something that is being worked on following the progression of the Women and Girls research by Emma Vickers.
From my own perspective and linking it within this role, I believe society is very couple orientated and I believe the Women on water programme is identifying “what you enjoy on the water” as an individual woman, embracing just you, opening up opportunities for you, broadening and challenging “your” horizons. Enabling “you” to do something you didn’t think was possible.
It has genuinely been a privilege to watch, listen and witness these women grow in confidence, I believe it has harnessed their strengths, ones they didn’t know they had. Brought belief in themselves, elevated personal worth and value. Empowerment with a capital E!
Some key challenges that I have come across within this role include, needing to own your own boat to get involved, lack of available boats to rent and not the club boats not the same as the classes that are active on the water. Lack of variety to try different classes before deciding to purchase a boat. To crew you need to be good enough, but how do we get there? If a new member in a club, how do you put yourself forward if you’re still wearing an L plate or even an R plate?
Clubs I have visited have been, Ballyholme Yacht Club, Donaghadee Sailing Club, Newtownards Sailing Club, Newcastle Yacht Club, Lough Erne Yacht Club, Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, County Antrim Yacht Club, Royal Ulster Yacht Club.
Events include ILCA training, Topper Nationals, IODAI Championships, RUYC Ladies race, Flying Fifteen Championships, Adult RYA Courses, WOW programme.
Interviews include Adam Green – JMST Topper, Callum Pollock – Topper, Hugo Boyd – Topper, Charlotte Cairns – Topper, Isabelle Nixon – ILCA, Chrissy Forbes – Wow Graduate, Emily McAfee – Topper.
One of the key things I would like to support and implement moving forwards is getting schools to recognise their students' sailing achievements as part of their school sports colours. I have been engaged in conversations with one of our sailors who is heavily involved with club racing and competition. It would mean the world to me if I could get this sailor recognised for their sailing achievements within the school and additionally introduce other pupils to sailing as well.
It has been an exceptionally interesting summer working with the RYA. The role has involved what I categorise as two areas - office based work and then out and about club visits.
The office-based role has involved work around the census (the importance of the census), chasing the census, grants, setting up seminars with input to conference suggestions and seminar organisation.
As a committee member of a Yacht Club - and then very aware of the push and passion from inside RYA - I listened to the Woman on water webinar and again this highlighted all the struggles as seen in every Club with helping females get on the water and stay on the water.
The RYANI Club Conference now rebranded as RYA Connected 2023 is my focus today as I sit here typing. I enjoyed brainstorming areas to be discussed and having input. Seeing responses come from other clubs as to discussion topics once again highlights the generic issues Yacht Clubs face with the same key areas always rearing their head. This area has involved event planning and budgeting.
The most exciting aspect for me has been the Club visits and I have thoroughly enjoyed and been welcomed at every Club – once I started being able to make contact you can see the snowball effect – once I got into one Club that has opened the door to the next Club and only now do I feel it is getting easier to make contact and get to meet contacts who are new friends too. The sailing community is small.
It was a slow start with the weather at the start of July and all the first events I planned to get to were cancelled. This week I focused on RYA sailing courses and adult sailing courses.
The next big event involved Portaferry Sailing Club and Strangford Sailing Club. I was made very welcome by both Clubs with John McAlea taking me under his wing. The Narrows series is a fantastic showcase for sailing in NI from juniors up. In my discussions with committee members Portaferry highlighted that next season 2024 they are focusing on junior sailing restarting – one to support in 2024.
County Antrim Yacht Club was next, and a lot of successful sailors come from this club. I was very welcomed by the Commodore, Peter Darragh and out on the water in big breeze. Chats about the success of their sailors, the up and coming Flying Fifteen event and volunteering. I also had a fantastic chat with the commodore of Cockle Island Boat Club – what a programme they put on for their members at CIBC which is community spirit at its finest.
The Squib Irish Nationals were next where I chatted with Terry Rowan about running the event and volunteering. There was a big team there on the ground ensuring everything went smoothly. It shows that one design racing is popular no matter the boat, it’s the competition that matters.
Royal North Regatta was next with charity raft races, junior regatta, main regatta, and an elite series.
Carrickfergus Sailing Club Regatta was next with Anne Taylor and Graham Skelton the Commodore. I had a good chat to RYA VC– Gavin Watson about the RYA volunteer committees and the key to good marketing of the sport of sailing. I enjoyed being out on the water in such big breeze and how successful the Regatta was despite the weather.
Strangford Lough Yacht Club Topper Traveller was the day after Carrickfergus Regatta, and I got to be on the water with RYA Chair Susan. Great to see so many boats on the water and racing, with the addition of many toppers which had travelled from down south to compete.
I then met Debbie Hanna (Training Principle) at East Antrim Boat Club for their Onboard bright nights sailing. It was great to talk to Debbie about the work they do there and her time campaigning and coaching with RYA. I chatted to one of their senior instructors Jenna Reid out on the water, she had so much passion teaching the children on the water. I also spoke with one father who was there with his two sons, no one had ever sailed in his family before, and he thought it sounded like an active and interesting sport. This was an opportunity to get involved at the club by volunteering whilst his sons were out on the water learning.
The Feva Northerns (also a family holiday!) was hosted by East Down Yacht Club. This was a fantastic event from start to finish. I was out on day one with volunteers and the committee boat, it was an extensive weekend programme and the number of helpers that were there to make the weekend a success was extremely powerful to see. I focused this weekend on the sailors themselves as their enthusiasm for sailing was infectious and as a parent with my children seeing the friends, they have made from all over Ireland, this only being their second event. Sailing also encourages independence, motivation, and responsibility. These factors are all a key part of the life skills we develop from participating within the sport.
It's been a great summer out on the water and the sailing calendar never goes quiet! I am thankful for the opportunity to be involved within RYANI.
It has been fantastic having Heather and Lindsay supporting the RYANI team over the summer. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to cover all the events and see all the action on the water. Having Lindsay and Heather has made a powerful impact on the sailing community by seeing clubs, meeting with volunteers, committee members, officials, coaches and the many more people within our sailing community. They have been able to shine a light on sailors’ stories, club regattas, women on water, sailability, class associations and club training.
With my new role which started in July, having Heather and Lindsay has enabled me to make an easy transition over to the Pathways Officer role, some would even say it’s been “smooth sailing” (pardon the pun). The Club and Event Coordinators will finish post as we exit out of the summer sailing season, as we near closer to November we are looking forward to Lisa resuming post and hopefully baby Evie will visit us in the office to!