The RYA Training Conference 2023, supported by Gallagher, has been hailed a roaring success as more than 300 delegates, exhibitors and presenters descended upon the Oxford venue at the weekend (4-5 February).
Many of those who attended expressed how pleased they were to be returning to the event ‘in person’ after two years of online conferencing due to Covid restrictions. This year’s event was also available online for those who preferred not to travel, with more than 350 virtual attendees from across the globe.
Attendees weren’t put off by the earlier than usual start as they enjoyed coffee and pastries, as old acquaintances were remade.
Vaughan Marsh, RYA Chief Instructor for sail and motor cruising, kicked off proceedings in a large and full room with a welcome and introductions, as well as setting the scene for what was to come across the two days.
Jason Scholey, Senior Product Manager for the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), and Mike Bunton from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) were next up, providing a detailed overview of UKHO’s plans to develop a wider range of digital charting products in advance of their withdrawal from paper chart production. The presentation was a part of consultation with customers and the MCA around the transition period to electronic charts.
The mid-morning coffee break gave delegates the chance to mingle, network, enjoy splendid chocolate chip cookies and the exhibition hall, which was soon very busy.
A choice of workshops followed, including one lead by instructors Rod Smith and Mark Todd on the transition from paper to electronic charts, which prompted lively discussion. Online polls at the start and end of the session showed the vast majority of people in favour, with some still undecided about the direction of travel.
The lunch break provided an enjoyable hot buffet and yet more opportunity to network and meet the exhibitors.
RYA CEO Sara Sutcliffe MBE took what some presenters call “the graveyard slot” – that first session after lunch where delegates, after an early start and a hearty lunch, may be a little relaxed – but Sara’s presentation was warmly received by an attentive and good-humoured audience.
Sara spoke of a wonderful first year in her role, the pleasure in seeing people developing a lifelong love of sailing and boating, and how instructors were fundamental to this. She said how proud we all could be of the RYA’s fantastic history, the British Sailing Team, and the marking of 50 years of RYA Training in 2020. She reminded those present that they were the real coal face of getting people on the water and people will come again if they enjoy themselves.
Looking forward, Sara emphasised the need for inclusion and sustainability before taking questions from the floor.
A round of presentation workshops followed with delegates able to choose from one of six topics including managing a critical incident, the future is electric – how do we get there?, the role RYA instructors can play in the fight against people smuggling and creating a welcoming learning environment.
Simultaneously there was also a choice of tech talks, 15-minute sessions where exhibitors could talk to delegates about their company’s range of products and new innovations.
Following the afternoon coffee break, delegates could choose a different topic from the range of presentations and tech talks.
Richard Falk, Director of Training and Qualifications rounded off the day with an annual update and pointer on our priorities for the year ahead, before delegates enjoyed some time out ahead of dinner.
Reflecting upon a hugely successful conference, Richard said: "To say that this event was a roaring success would probably be something of an understatement.
“With more than 260 in person attendees, as well as several dozen staff, speakers and exhibitors, and 350+ online attendees located across the globe, this has been our largest and most successful event ever. The positive feeling at the event and the gratitude for being able to meet again in person was clearly visible to all.
“To everyone who either attended or presented in person, as well as those who supported remotely or assisted in the preparation of the event, thank you all so very much for your input. It has been very much appreciated, not only by the RYA Training team, but also by the many very happy conference delegates.”
A selection of key updates and workshops will be made available for anyone that was unable to attend on the RYA Training Support Site in the weeks ahead.
For more information about future RYA conferences and events, visit our events hub.