Landmark study proves OnBoard has a positive impact on young people's lives

17 Sep 20

A landmark study by the Institute of Education at University College London (UCL) has evidenced that being part of RYA OnBoard (OB) has a positive impact on young people’s lives.

Run by the RYA, OnBoard is a grass roots programme which introduces sailing and windsurfing to young people aged 8 to 18, connecting schools and youth groups with RYA clubs and training centres. The low cost sessions are designed to promote equal access to sailing for young people from all social and economic backgrounds, whilst encouraging their character development.

‘Children and Sailing*’: A research evaluation for the Royal Yachting Association and the Andrew Simpson Foundation’ was conducted by UCL researchers to examine the consequences of participation in the OnBoard programme.

The results have helped to identify how the programme contributes to the development of the RYA OB character attributes: creativity, teamwork, determination, communication, independence and confidence.

It also highlights how sailing and windsurfing correlate with benefits identified for physical activity generally and identifies how RYA OnBoard plays an important role in tackling social injustice by providing unique experiences which can help to develop self-confidence and open up further opportunities.

This is what the researchers found…

• OnBoard sessions are enjoyed by almost all participants and engender feelings of fun and freedom
• The sessions contribute to a participant’s wider personal and social development. This included enhancing their social skills with both peers and adults; maturity; ability to accept responsibility and concentrate on tasks
• Participants felt more supported by their peers. They also felt more relaxed and confident in themselves following an OnBoard session
• OnBoard plays an important role in tackling social injustice. It provides unique experiences to those from disadvantaged backgrounds and can help to develop self-confidence and open up further opportunities.
• OnBoard sessions particularly develop the attributes of teamwork, communication and confidence.

Hannah Cockle, RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, said: “We’re so pleased the UCL research team drew the conclusions about the potential of OnBoard to positively impact young lives.

“Being on the water creates multiple situations where young people are challenged and tested as they learn a new activity. OnBoard provides a safe and proven structure for this to happen and a great environment to help them to develop the character attributes and capabilities that are so important for success in life.

“Most of the children and young people involved in the project had never sailed before, despite the sailing sites being located next to their own local communities. Teachers highlighted how there can be a perception around whom sailing is open to, but OnBoard give students access to a type of experience they would not normally get in their everyday lives.”

Read the RYA OnBoard Impact Report

The full research along with a summary promotional leaflet is available to RYA OnBoard clubs and centres to help with the promotion of their OB programmes.

Get OnBoard

If your venue would like to be part of OB community of clubs and centres all intent on using the power of sailing and windsurfing to make a difference there’s never been a better time to sign up.

For more information about how to get involved in sailing and OnBoard visit

*371 young people (aged 8-17), from 19 schools and 14 sailing clubs or commercial sailing centres, completed before (baseline) and after (follow-up) questionnaires to assess the impact of being part of RYA OnBoard. Additionally, 11 instructors, teachers and parents/carers were also interviewed by qualitative researchers.