Island Barn Reservoir SC is one of 10 finalists from across the UK selected by the Royal Yachting Association for the 2021 RYA and Yachts and Yachting Club of the Year Award, supported by Gallagher.
Island Barn prides itself as London’s premier family sailing club and is already renowned for competitive adult racing, but in recent years it’s the club’s youngsters that have dominated. Over 25 of them have been selected for national training squads, of whom around half are girls. Three of the girls, all aged 14, plus five of the boys, aged 14-16, have also become RYA Assistant Instructors.
Photo- Jibriel Bostan (14) one of 25 youngsters chosen for RYA squads in 2020.
The Club of the Year award aims to reward the hard work and dedication that goes into such achievements – but Island Barn still faces stiff competition from nine other UK clubs. That’s because the outcome depends on a public vote where each club has to persuade its members, supporters and friends to vote for them before January 25. If you’d like to vote then click here
Island Barn’s success in boosting the number of girls taking up sailing and racing is linked to a wider expansion. It has spent three years developing a pathway to turn sailors of all ages from novices into competent sailors and racers. Adults have a Trysail programme while for youngsters the junior sailing school takes beginners up to national squad level. Encouraging women and girls is a key aim at all levels.
Photo - Imogen Martin-Webb (13) on and Island Barn race coaching course.
One key new element is year-round coaching and training. Traditionally, sail training for youngsters stops during winter but Island Barn’s new programme offers coaching right through winter – even in Christmas week! This helped 25 youngsters win RYA squad places in 2020. The club also trained 12 adult members as Dinghy Instructors and 15 as Race Coaches – and became an RYA Recognised Training Centre.
The club found innovative ways to allow racing during the pandemic, while Friendly e-Fridays, e-sailing and expert Zoom talks kept its social scene active.
Photo - Kaitlyn Wyatt, selected for the RYA's National Topper Squad in 2020.
Jonathan Leake, Chief Instructor at the club, who co-organises the race coaching programme, said: “The enthusiasm of our youngsters is amazing. They’d turn up to sail even if it was blowing a blizzard. But it’s as much about making friends and having fun as the actual sailing.”
Megan Thomson, aged 14, who was just selected for the RYA’s Regional Training Group for Toppers, has sailed at Island Barn since she was nine years old. “We live in the middle of London so it’s amazing to have such great sailing so nearby,” she said.
Photo - Megan Thomson (14) selected for the RYA Regional Training Group in 2020/21.
Michelle Gent, RYA Programmes Manager said: “A huge congratulations to all ten Club of the Year Finalists. This has been an especially challenging year for clubs and each and every person involved in the running of these organisations has put in a tremendous amount of time and effort so that others can safely get afloat. Now it’s over to you to pick a winner!
Rob Peake, group editor of Sailing Today with Yachts & Yachting, added: “Anyone who started at club level as a child, or who joined a club as their entry to the sailing world as an adult, knows how vital that experience can be.
"A good club will show you how to get better at sailing and encourage you to continue sailing. A great club will help you simply enjoy sailing and it will welcome people from all parts its local community. The Club of the Year Award is unique in that it recognises the hard work that goes on behind the scenes by volunteers to make sailing clubs great, and to encourage more people into our sport.”
Voting closes on 25th January 2021. The overall winner will be announced at the RYA Virtual Dinghy Show.