Inspirational supporter of youth and junior sailing Barbara Darling passes away

The RYA is saddened to share news of the death of Barbara Darling whose dedication inspired youth and junior sailors across the North East.
05 Jul 20

Born in Corbridge in 1937, Barbara spent her early childhood in North Yorkshire and Northumberland and obtained a scholarship for a Stockton girls’ school before going to Alnwick Teacher Training College to become a secondary school maths teacher.

Jobs in Ripon and Manchester allowed her to enjoy her love of hockey and the outdoors and she became heavily involved in outdoor education at many schools she worked at; leading walking and climbing expeditions to the local hills and Scotland.  As part of these activities she was introduced to sailing and after returning to the North East in the late 1960's she joined Tynemouth Sailing Club and started crewing for David in his National 12. 

Sailing formed a large part of their leisure activities after their marriage and as part of her teaching career she also became involved with the newly formed National School’s Sailing Association (NSSA) and became a Sailing Master (the basis for the RYA’s Dinghy Instructor qualification).  She regularly took youngsters sailing or into the hills in a 29 seater bus - which she drove!

A move to Leeds led her and David to join Ripon SC along with their young daughters, Fiona and Naomi, in the early 1980’s. Barbara got involved with the training programme, eventually becoming Training Principal, and also set up a large amount of the structure the club still benefits from today within their Youth & Junior programme, running the club’s first RYA Young Opportunity sailing course in 1987 as well as taking young sailors from across the region to the NSSA’s national events for over twenty years. 

After their retirement back to the North East in 1996, Barbara enjoyed sailing and being actively involved at both Tynemouth SC and Derwent Reservoir SC in the family’s National 12s, RS200 and Mirrors as well as acting as Training Principal at Tynemouth SC while they established their training centre. 

Barbara helped set up the Yorkshire & Humberside School’s Traveller Series in the early 1980’s and, on her return to the North East in 1996, set up the North Youth Traveller Series.  The two series have now merged and form the North East Region’s Youth Traveller Series.  She also continued her long association with the NSSA acting as their Treasurer from 1995-2006, contributing to a consolidation and restructuring of their operations to accommodate the new look of sailing within education.

Barbara was presented with the RYA’s President’s Award in 2003 in recognition of her contribution to youth sailing development in the north.

In recent years Barbara and David joined Bassenthwaite SC having spent many happy weeks there as part of the annual Bass Week regatta and they both enjoyed pottering on sunny afternoons or joining in with the racing.  Whilst her ill health in the last few years had prevented her from participating herself, she found great joy in spending time at sailing clubs and watching the sailing, particularly as her grand-children took to the water and learnt to sail themselves.

Our thoughts are with David, Fiona and Naomi and their families at this time.  As the next generation of young sailors come to love the burble of water under their bow; may her legacy and contribution to the sport live on. 


Many tributes have beenpaid via Ripon SC’s Facebook page, including from Gary Young, who explained: “Barbara had such a huge influence on my sailing as a teenagerthrough all her work with the NSSA. Always bending over backwards to enablepeople to participate.”

Kevin Milburn, who knew Barbara from her time at Derwent Reservoir SC, commented: “Having a vintage 12, her and David's help and encouragement willalways be remembered. As an instructor, I always knew I could relyon her for support and advice and often I'd see her waist deep in the waterencouraging children to take their first steps in Optimists, usually at the end of a very long rope to give them the reassurance they were still in contact. My lastingmemory will be of the stories she'd tell me of sailing on the Tyne at Newburnand looking at photos of the racing in the winter. Dressed in thick jumpers andtrousers I asked what happened when you capsized: she laughed and said ‘youdidn't capsize!’.”

Ian Smith, regional chair and a trustee of RiponSC, said: “In her many and varied roles within the North East sailingcommunity, Barbara contributed significantly to the development, enjoyment andparticipation of our sport, particularly for the younger age groups andnewcomers. She will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by many peoplenationally as well as locally.” 

Sam Usher, RYA North East Regional Development Officer, added: “I knewBarbara through her championing of youth sailing in the region and workingtirelessly to support it. She used to attend events like instructor trainingdays to keep abreast of the latest topics and updates, and one of the great thingsabout Barbara was that she was never afraid to challenge, in a positive way,whatever the RYA was doing. She kept me on my toes at many conferences and wasa breath of fresh air. Barbara was just a lovely person who was passionateabout growing youth sailing and racing. She was one of those characters thatsailing will miss. She is definitely a hard act to follow.”