Getting OnBoard with the DofE Awards

01 Nov 19

Everyone's heard of the DofE right? But have you ever thought how, as an OnBoard club, you could be what young candidates are looking for?

“The activities needed to achieve the award are things that are often already happening at clubs and training centres," explains Amanda Van Santen, RYA Chief Instructor, Dinghy and Windsurfing. "Whether volunteering, completing RYA Training and gaining a certificate, participating in club racing or even going on an expedition.

"Hundreds of thousands of young people embark on their DofE every year, providing a huge opportunity for RYA Training Centres to reach new audiences and engage with club members and training candidates.”

So how could your OnBoard club get involved? 

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of activities for anyone aged 14 to 24. The DofE gives young people the chance to experience new activities or develop existing skills. There are three progressive programme levels, which when completed, lead to a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award.

In 2012, the RYA was recognised as a National Operating Authority for the DofE Award. This means recognised RYA Training Centres can apply to become licensed to offer the DofE by meeting specific criteria laid out by the RYA and DofE. More than 25 RYA recognised training centres are now also recognised as DofE centres.

One of these is Aberdeen and Stonehaven Yacht Club (ASYC) on Scotland's east coast. Elaine Collier, the club's DofE Coordinator, explains how running the programme has made a difference to them.

"Over the years, we’ve been asked by a number of sailors to act as their DofE assessor for one or more of the sections. But, we had started to see a reduction in accessibility to the scheme for young people in the area. It seemed a natural extension of the opportunities offered by the club to make the DofE available to them."

ASYC started their DofE programme in spring 2019. Once Elaine had established there was enough demand in the club, the first step was to apply to be recognised as a DofE centre by the RYA.

She completed a required online ‘Introduction to DofE’ and attended a one-day training course, which qualified her to become the club's DofE Coordinator. Once all the consent forms are in, and with all the paperwork online, she creates participant accounts on the ‘eDofE’ digital hub, where participants can then record their DofE programme and activities online. 

What's on offer?

As a DofE recognised centre, ASYC can now offer the full package of 'sections' required to complete Bronze, Silver or Gold level. There are four sections to complete for Bronze and Silver, and an additional fifth level for Gold. These are...

  • Physical – regularly taking part in sailing or windsurfing activity.
  • Skill – sailing, windsurfing and powerboating can be skills, whether completing an RYA training course, working on race technique, learning to sail a double-hander or improving teaching skills.
  • Volunteering – from helping in the galley or carrying out boat maintenance, to volunteering as an Assistant Instructor (AI) or driving the powerboat.
  • Expedition – this could be an on-the-water expedition or a more traditional hike or shore-based adventure that is organised through the centre.
  • Residential (Gold level only) - You may never have been away from home before, let alone using your board or boat to go on an exciting adventure, so now is the time!

“Once the participants understand what's required for each section and have decided what to do, they need to approach an assessor who will sign off on their progress," Elaine continues. "That's our Training Principal.

"Many candidates volunteer as AIs, whereby they assist one of the junior programme Dinghy Instructors (DIs) with groups of younger sailors. Some of our AIs have accumulated 70 volunteer hours with the club this year! We then support these volunteers to progress to become RYA DIs. It’s a fantastic pathway.”

The impact it's having

Whilst most of the activities needed to complete the sections are commonplace at clubs, the expedition and residential segment can be more of a challenge. 

ASYC opted to keep things simple in their first year of DofE so when it came to the expedition section, the Bronze group undertook a regular walking expedition.

But a number of the juniors had also already signed up for a residential sailing expedition with the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland, which ticks that box. Next year ASYC are planning their own dinghy expedition.

“We’re really pleased we signed up to be part of the programme," Elaine concludes. "It's early days, but the young people are all extremely enthusiastic and there are already younger ones wanting to sign up
next year once they’re old enough.

“It’s a way to engage with our membership, encourage participation and we hope it will bridge the gap between the juniors and adults, providing a pathway into teaching. It’s an excellent way to grow AIs and DIs and we’ve also seen more non-sailing parents get involved with volunteering.”

Want to know more?

You can find more information about how you could get involved here - The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and to find out more about DofE recognition contact Mollie Knowlden in the RYA Training Team at