Top takeaways from the Midlands Affiliated Clubs Conference

17 Nov 19

1. Action on volunteering

'Putting people first' was the focus of this year's conference. No more was that evident than when Alistair Dickson (RYA Director of Sport Development) presented the findings of the independent Volunteer Research project the RYA have undertaken with behavioural research specialists, Revealing Reality, this year.

Alistair kicked off by revealing that 52% of clubs have told the RYA that volunteer demand and shortages are the key issue for growth. This project sought to understand how satisfied people were with their volunteering experience at clubs, how duties were distributed and the main motivations and barriers to volunteering.

Most people volunteered because they wanted to help their club (88%) or because they enjoyed it (56%), while 92% were very or fairly satisfied with their volunteering experience. All sounds positive, yes?

But, the research found volunteering was unfairly distributed amongst members, with a highly-committed core of 20% of members completing nearly two-thirds of the total number of duties, meaning some members were under-utilised for duties. Just under half (47%) said they wanted to contribute more to their club.

An access-for-all webinar will be broadcast on Thursday 5 December (7-8pm) to delve deeper into the findings and recommendations with the chance to ask questions. If you can’t join us please sign up anyway and you’ll be able to hear the recording after the live show - register for the webinar.

2. 2019 regional insights

Midlands 2019 highlightsMidlands Regional Development Officer, Ben Hodgson, opened the conference by revealing some of the main findings from the latest RYA Club Membership Census.

He thanked all the region's clubs for taking the time to complete the census as this year 98% of Midlands clubs - the most ever and up 7% on 2016 - responded to the census. This matters because it makes the data collated and the insights more accurate and reliable. 

The overall picture was positive. During the first three years of the 2017-2021 RYA Midlands Regional Plan growth has been achieved in the key strategic areas of junior membership and female participation, while at 19,653 overall club membership, although down on last year (21,908), was still 0.6% higher than in 2016.

No fewer than 302 disabled people are sailing twice a month in the Midlands, and, although a lack of instructors is always hot topic, we’re actually doing pretty well. Ben said 22 new Senior Instructors are training in region within next month and he questioned whether the lack of instructors could be more a case of distribution the instructors we have into places they are needed?

But, most notably, the churn within our clubs - that's the number of people leaving and not being replaced - was up from 9.9% last year to 10.3% in 2019. This is also above the national average. Which leads us neatly to...

3. RYA Midlands Regional Plan 2021-2025

The conference marked the start of the consultation for the 2021-2025 Regional Plan. This will provide the roadmap for the region's strategic priorities and objectives in the next funding cycle.

We will absolutely be looking to address the churn rate in the coming year. But what you tell us about your challenges and priorities during the consultation period will go a long way to dictating what is included in the Plan, and how that will lead to strategies and interventions to arrest the increasing churn rate. Watch this space for information about how your club will be invited to get involved in the consultation.

2021-2025 RYA Strategy Consultation example questions for clubs4. Cruising counts 

This was the first year that cruising had had such a prominent place on the agenda and it quickly became apparent why. Of the 10,000+ RYA (not club) members in the Midlands, 5,000 are cruising sailors. 

We still so often think about sailing in the Midlands as reservoirs, lakes and rivers. But the interest in big boats in the region cannot be underestimated. On the contrary, the conference showed how much of a contribution Midlands cruisers are making to supporting and sustaining all sailing and boating activity in the region.

Of the current Regional Team (more on that in a mo), three are from Midlands cruising clubs, including the Secretary, Peter Smerdon, and Treasurer, Ashleigh Hemming. In addition, when the RYA Midlands team exhibited at five high footfall events across the region this summer, the Midlands cruising clubs provided the bulk of the volunteers, including being the sole flag bearers at one of them.

The conference included the Midlands cruising clubs meeting, with each club reviewing their year (cruises in Corsica, the BVIs and Lake Huron anyone?!) and discussing the increasing demand for cruising-related training, such as Day Skipper Theory courses, in the region.

Judy Lambourne, the RYA Midland's cruising representative, also revealed a virtual cruising club Facebook group is being planned to create an online community to bring together the region's cruising enthusiasts. The Midlands cruisers are ready to start getting the recognition they deserve. 

5. What could you do?

RYA Midlands chair Steven Tinsley speaking at the Midlands Affiliated Clubs ConferenceThe role the wider Regional Team plays in supporting our clubs and centres really came to the fore throughout the conference.

To help Ben and his staff deliver the best outcomes for your clubs, the team volunteers do a huge amount of unseen good, using their gathered expertise and experience to advise, support and get out and about to promote boating in the region and build relationships with clubs.

Chaired by Glossop SC's Steven Tinsley, the team are people like you; enthusiasts who have spent a number of years within their respective disciplines, often including serving on their club committees, and are now committed to helping develop the sport at a regional level.

Joining the team isn't about sitting on a committee. It's about using the diverse expertise and experiences you have to benefit the sport in the wider region. If you think you've got something to offer, and would like to make a real difference beyond your club, Steven would love to hear from you at