Midlands clubs host ‘Ben in a Boat’

Visits welcomed by Hollowell and Syston sailing clubs
11 Jul 23

RYA Midlands Regional Development Officer Ben Hodgson driving the committee boat at Hollowell SC.

RYA Midlands Regional Development Officer Ben Hodgson has been on tour following an open invite for clubs and centres to host his ‘Ben in a Boat’ sessions to support their activities.

Launched in Spring, the initiative enables clubs and centres to ask for a visit from Ben for a few hours  focussing on a practical topic of their choice.

The sessions might relate to any aspect of club activity – including sailing, windsurfing or powerboating – and enable committee members, instructors or volunteers to get on the water with Ben to develop their knowledge or for a skills refresher.

‘Ben in a Boat’ visits so far this summer have included calling in at Hollowell Sailing Club in Northamptonshire, and at Syston Sailing Club in Leicestershire, with Chelmarsh Sailing Club in Shropshire next on the calendar.

Clubs and centres keen to also invite Ben along are invited to get in touch to book a date.

Reaching out

At Hollowell SC, Ben met with committee and club members, the training principal and fleet captains, to hear about the club’s development plans for the next three to five years.

Commodore James Avery said: “As part of our development planning we wanted to connect with the RYA and it was also good for Ben to meet our members, which made our ‘Ben in a Boat’ afternoon an ideal opportunity for some two-way communication.   

“We wanted Ben to hear about our priorities and how we’re tackling them, and the newly launched RYA Together On Water strategy relates to what we’re doing as regards inclusion, so it was a really good discussion for bouncing ideas around.”

The club has been looking for ways to reach new audiences and targeted particular postcodes for its 2023 Discover Sailing open day and Tuesday taster sessions. Oversubscribed, these have so far resulted in 30 new memberships, including six families.

Also visiting the club was Regional Performance Manager Tim Hall, who chatted to parents outlining the pathway for junior sailors. RYA Director of Racing Nick Scott, a former Hollowell member, also called in recently during an open meeting for the Northamptonshire Youth Series.

As James explains, the club is keen to remove barriers and generate funding to make the sport as accessible as possible: “We want to invite people we wouldn’t previously have seen and we want to get more young people on the water, particularly those who wouldn’t have that opportunity otherwise, because of the enormous benefits that we know it brings.”

RYA Midlands Regional Development Officer Ben Hodgson on a boat at Hollowell SC with commodore James Avery.

Inspiring volunteers

At Syston SC, Ben was invited specifically to provide club volunteers with a session raising awareness about powerboat and safety boat skills, and opportunities for further training.

Providing insights and know-how, an onshore session was followed by a chance for members to get on the water to put boat handling and manoeuvres into practise.

It has encouraged some participants to think about taking a formal course while for those who already drive powerboats at the club, it was an opportunity to ask questions and upskill.

Commodore Jez Lewis said: “Ben came along for the afternoon to give around 10 of our members a powerboat session, and as a lot of those who took part are absolute beginners, it was a really good taster for them to find out more.

“It’s inspired some of those who took part to now look into doing the RYA Powerboat Level 2 course – we need more members to help out with duties so it was really useful to have Ben come along to share his expert technical knowledge.”

Regional Development Officer Ben Hodgson presenting on shore to a group of members and volunteers at Syston SC.

Get a date in the diary

Ben said: “It was a real pleasure to call in at Hollowell and Syston and I’m looking forward to visiting Chelmarsh SC next. If your club or centre would like to host a ‘Ben in a Boat’  session for a few hours, let me know and we can put a date in the diary.

“It’s an opportunity for you to take me out on the water for a practical session at your venue, with a spotlight on whatever subject you would find useful for your team!”

If your club or centre would like to organise a ‘Ben in a Boat’ visit, contact Ben here.