RYA Cymru Wales blog – April 2024

CEO James Stuart shares his thoughts for the future of Welsh sailing and boating...
09 Apr 24

Lots of boats and people on a pontoon enjoying a sunny day on the water.

It’s been really exciting to publish our new five-year strategy this month: Gyda’n Gilydd ar ein Dyfroedd - Together on our Waters.

This has taken a year to bring together, with many people involved during the consultation process, and we’re grateful to all our stakeholders, investors and supporters for their invaluable contributions along the way.

We’ve worked really hard to make sure it means something not just to us as an organisation but hopefully to clubs and centres as well, who will likewise be able to use the very simple framework at its core to develop their activities.

As outlined during the launch of the strategy at our AGM, we’re in a good position for the future in that we’re not starting from scratch.

There is lots of great activity across Wales already and so our ambition is to build on this to take us from a stable base of participation to one of growth.

Group of people on shore holding colourful orange and blue wings aloft on a sunny day.

Get on the water

The overall strategic plan for 2024-2029 sits within the context of ‘Croeso’  and our belief that people should feel welcome on every occasion in our sport, otherwise the likelihood of them coming back diminishes.

We all expect to feel safe and welcomed and that’s what we endeavour to deliver. It’s about being open to all people and communities and cultures, and the verb welcoming represents a series of actions to ensure we achieve this.

Some may not engage because there are real or perceived barriers to participation, and so it’s vital for us to think about how people can join in with what we do.

Barriers and being welcome don’t work together, and identifying and dismantling potential obstacles to participation is something we can all play a part in.

Around half a dozen junior and youth dinghies with colourful sails and an orange RIB on the water with other boats in the background.

Stay on the water

If you look at the data, more than 90% of those who take part in watersports, do so on a casual basis, only three times a year or less.

This suggests we should not only try to attract new people but, probably even more effectively, think about how to convert people into regular attendees.

We’re engaging lots of people so maybe we should direct our efforts into retaining those who’ve already overcome any initial barriers to get on the water.

If you put your feet into their shoes, what will encourage them to return regularly, stick with us and join our community? It presents a massive opportunity!

What we do know is that our sport is not just about racing, and against a background of climate change, we are seeing extreme conditions more often.

It will become ever more important to have the ability to flex what we offer so there is always something going on to draw people to your venue.

Many clubs and centres have diversified their activities - for example, adding bodyboarding on the coast, table tennis in winter or SUPs for when there’s no wind - and our every-weather venues may find it easier to survive and thrive.

Two groups of people having fun racing away from a beach on two giant paddle boards!

Give back

So, at the core of our strategy, we’re asking the question: “What does it take to be welcoming on every single occasion and get people not only out on the water but keen to come back - and then give back?”

If people take part regularly, they are more likely to join your club – and then give their time. Our communities ultimately only flourish when people give back and this is the connection which keeps the wheel turning.

We don’t all have to become instructors. At whatever level we are at, we can all think about what we can do for our sport, and that could be as simple as a beach clean or introducing a friend to the club.

We’re all small but essential cogs which keep the bigger cycle working and if everyone is doing even a modest thing it will make a big difference.

Group of people on a 'committee boat' running the racing at and event with ILCA dinghies in the background.

Your invitation

We’ve done a lot of thinking about what we’ll be doing across the different themes in our new RYA Cymru Wales strategy and we hope you will do the same.

As we work through the detail, we will share our actions towards creating a connected, inspired and inclusive Welsh sailing and boating community.

But as an organisation we are just one part of the whole picture and the strategy presents an opportunity for clubs and centres and anyone with an interest in our sports – and an invitation to have a think about what it means for you.

How can we ensure our sports are welcoming for all? How will you help to make our virtuous cycle more effective to enable people to get on the water, stay on the water and give back? And lastly, what help do you need?  Let us know.

I will be hosting an online ‘drop-in’ Q&A session 1700-1800 on Monday 13 May which will also be recorded. Please do get in touch for a link to join us. 

I look forward to sharing our journey as we implement the strategy alongside our ongoing support for clubs and centres, and our performance and sustainability goals.

In the meantime, remember you can keep up to date with all the latest news and announcements by following @RYACymruWales on FacebookX and Instagram.