Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club in County Durham is celebrating after being named a finalist for the 2022 RYA and Yachts & Yachting Club of the Year Awards.
The volunteer-run club at Grassholme Reservoir is one of 10 finalists from across the UK in the RYA and Yachts & Yachting Club of the Year Awards 2022, supported by Gallagher, with public voting to help decide the overall winner now open.
The awards celebrate the outstanding achievement and hard work of sailing clubs across the UK and the timing for Teesdale SWC coincides with the club heading into its 50th anniversary year.
Selected as a finalist by the RYA Awards Panel, the club was shortlisted after showing resilience and determination to overcome a series of challenges and build strong foundations for the future.
Remedial work on the dam by Northumbrian Water resulted in three years of low water levels affecting the club and the Covid pandemic also took its toll on membership.
But behind the scenes the club worked hard to transform its adverse fortunes into a golden opportunity for change which has seen it not only survive but thrive.
Supported by the water board, a shoreline redevelopment plan provided a new lower level and more accessible boat park with a revamped wider slipway, while member-driven projects have seen the construction of a race office, as well as new storage facilities.
The club has also modernised its digital communications and administration, while successful funding bids have enabled it to buy additional boats and increase the availability of training, including sailing, powerboating and sessions for children.
Commenting on the award nomination, Commodore Anthony Tubbs said: “This is a great honour for the club and a just reward for all the hard work put in by members over the last 12 months. Our committee and members have rallied round and thrown themselves into a number of projects that have revitalised the club, created new facilities and increased participation.”
The club’s membership has trebled to more than 100 and its RYA OnBoard sessions for youth and junior sailors now have around 30 regular attendees compared to 18 in 2019.
Chief instructor Richard Hewitt said: “We’re a small friendly club and we’ve had a number of people join us over the last year who’ve seen that Teesdale SWC offers an opportunity to get on the water in a safe environment and in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. On a sunny day there isn’t anywhere better and it’s a great place to enjoy getting away from it all.
“In order to get more people out on the water we want to now continue developing our facilities and Club of the Year is a great opportunity to raise awareness about what we do. We would love local people and the wider sailing community in the North East to vote for us!”
Although it is one of the smallest clubs in the region, Teesdale SWC is an RYA Training Centre with 9 instructors: 22 adults took powerboat and sailing courses in 2021 and there were learn-to-sail courses for 36 children thanks to a Teesdale Area Action Partnership grant for six new junior boats.
New trophies have revitalised racing and the club regatta, the Grassholme Cup, has been revived. The club also provides a watersports base for groups from the local community - including Scouts, Wilderness Outdoor Education and the Combined Cadet Force (Royal Navy).
Teesdale SWC’s appeal for votes is supported by MP Dehenna Davison, who enjoyed a sail with club members earlier in the year and described news of their shortlisting for the Club of the Year title as “fantastic”.
Voting will close on Monday 24 January 2022 and the winner will be announced at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show in Spring. Find out more about Teesdale Sailing & Watersports Club and cast your vote at RYA and Yachts & Yachting Club of the Year.
Teesdale SWC now aims to generate further growth in participation – and solar power!
The club moved to its present location at Grassholme Reservoir 25 years ago when low water levels at its original home on the higher up Selset Reservoir saw membership drop to just 20.
The water board gave the club its old site manager’s hut, built with the dam in 1911, and with the addition of a portacabin this helped to give Teesdale SWC a new lease of life.
Sailing has continued ever since on the 49-acre water at Grassholme but the clubhouse, apart from mains water, has remained completely off grid, with no electricity, gas or mobile phone signal.
Following on from the redevelopment of the boat park, Teesdale SWC now has plans for further improvements to its facilities as it looks forward to celebrating its half century in 2022, including bringing electricity and showers to its 110-year-old clubhouse.
The club – which has a wood burning stove for warmth and Calor gas for cooking - is in the process of applying for grant funding for eight solar panels to provide lighting and four sockets, which will allow appliances such as a kettle and microwave and a video screen for training.
Growing participation further is another key aim for 2022. The club has good links with local schools and community groups and hopes to continue developing its training and OnBoard club, plus introduce new competitions, events and socials.
The first of a number of tent pitches have been created in the club grounds to allow overnight stays and make the club more attractive for visitors. Open water swimming is also planned, along with encouraging more midweek use of the club via its buddy system, which enables members to meet up to go sailing, paddleboarding or canoeing.
Underpinning the buzz of activity, the club streamlined its administration in 2021 using Sailing Club Manager and improved its digital communications, including its website and social media, to better connect members with their club and reach out to new participants.
Sam Usher, RYA North East Regional Development Officer, sums up: “This little club has big ambitions and has developed both its facilities and membership to become a vibrant hub for its community, with a growing youth and junior section and a diverse and impressive range of on-the-water activity. A massive well done to Teesdale SWC on being shortlisted for Club of the Year. Please support our 2022 regional finalist and vote for Teesdale SWC in its bid for the title!”