Behind the scenes of Scottish Student Sailing

While many of us are still to get out on the water for the first time this year, it’s a different story for our student sailors, who are in the depths of running a full on event calendar
12 Feb 24
Team racing Fireflies at part of Scottish Student Sailing

With planning and delivering two semesters of sailing amongst full-time studies no easy feat, we’re taking a deep dive into how our student sailors pull it off year in, year out.

Relying on representatives from the Scottish Student Sailing (SSS) community, university sailing alumni, and independent race officials, there’s plenty hard work and dedication that goes into the packed calendar of events – and plenty thanks to be paid to those who make it happen.

Students at a team racing qualifier weekend at Bardowie

Made up of several distinct competitive styles, the SSS year is made up of Team Racing, Match Racing, Yachting, and Fleet Racing - as well as hosting British Universities Sailing Association events, such as BUCS fleet racing and BUCS Playoffs this year.

And if that wasn’t enough, competent and qualified sailors across the Universities remain dedicated to running beginner sessions for those who may be experiencing the sport for the first time.

Chair of Scottish Student Sailing, Louis Hockings-Cooke said:

“We’ve got a really good community here in Scotland, everyone’s friends.

“It’s great to see people who have done a bit of sailing, who have maybe been in toppers when they were younger or have maybe done their RYA Stages then come to uni and really make it their passion.

“One of my favourite things is when people come to uni and have never sailed before, then they try it and want to come to all of our events. Then they graduate and keep volunteering at our events in some way – it’s great to see.”

With volunteers central across all Scottish Student Sailing events, there are a wide ranging set of roles needing expertly executed each time round.

From a committee boat crew to umpires, as well as beach master and toastie chefs, any SSS event requires commitment from its helpers to ensure things run smoothly.

Images of students on a pontoon with fleet of dinghies team racing in the background.

It’s usually all hands on deck for the host university, who will be getting their heads together to plan as well as train ahead of a home race weekend.

But, capably assisted by a set of SSS members, there are usually plenty of knowledgeable sailors on hand to ensure everything is in place.

Utilising knowledge from their own experience of university sailing, students come together in a range of roles, from committee Chairs to BUSA liaison officers – all eager to give up their time and ensure the events they’ve enjoyed in the past continue being delivered to a high standard.

Students at a team racing qualifier weekend at Bardowie

Paying thanks to the team that make it all happen, Louis said:

“It’s a never ending task, but people are always really keen to get involved.

“It’s great to have such a good community who love helping each other out.”

While many thanks are due to those giving up their time each year, the typically high turnover that comes with student committees can be a challenge.

Therefor, ‘succession planning’ and handovers become increasingly important in maintaining a level of continuity. 

We caught up with Edinburgh University Alumni turned Race Officer James Logan, who’s still giving up his time to help out and pass on his own knowledge:

“Because I’ve been around for a while, I’ve got experience as well as knowledge – I can anticipate things happening, and there’s a lot to consider when running a sailing event in general.

“A fleet racing event is bad enough, but a team racing event – there are always some extra shenanigans going on.

Images of alumni James Logan and students on a pontoon with fleet of dinghies team racing in the background.

“I’ve done umpiring, I’ve done the racing myself, and I’ve done a lot of race management, so I’ve kind of got three angles on it and on what needs to happen.

“By being around, I can help the students learn that information if they want to go on and do it themselves. We’re currently trying to encourage more people to come along and help.

“I was helped by an alumni student this weekend, and if I can pass on some knowledge to ensure there is continuity going forward with that expertise then that’s great.”

Evidently a committed and dedicated bunch, it’s clear our students are far from fair-weather sailors, braving the winter cold year round – only breaking for university holidays.

With a mixture of team racing league weekends running throughout the academic year (SSS 1, 2, and 3), as well as some mega stand alone events (Glasgow Grouse & Scottish Team Racing Championships), the student racing community are dedicated to delivering memorable experiences which are sure to keep sailors returning year on year.

For many, we’re told the sailing community is where individuals have forged their closest university connections, bonding over a love for getting on the water, and getting stuck into all the socials that come alongside.

Students at a team racing qualifier weekend at Bardowie

Sound exciting? If you’re a student, or will be in the years to come, follow Scottish Student Sailing on social media to stay up to date on the latest events.

Taken a trip down memory lane to student days gone by? Why not take some inspiration from current alumni volunteers. Get in touch with and see what difference you could make.

For a taste of what these race weekends look like, we headed along to speak to student organisers, race officials, and racers at SSS 2 last month - catch a glimpse into the action on our YouTube Channel now

And for an even greater insight into what makes these enthusiastic sailors tick, tune into the latest episode of our official RYA Scotland podcast ‘Off the Water’ now to hear more from SSS Chair Louis, and British University Sailing Association Representative Stuart Farmer.