Young volunteers make a difference

Teenagers are finding ways to contribute their time and effort to sailing clubs
05 Feb 24
Luca driving a powerboat with dinghies in the background
It’s no surprise that a large proportion of the volunteers who are the life-blood of sailing clubs are retired – it takes a significant time commitment. But a growing number of teenagers are finding ways to contribute their time and effort to their local club too, and they’re getting a lot out of it themselves.

Driving powerboats

Luca, 19, sails an RS Aero at Paignton Sailing Club and has competed in the youth worlds, the Europeans and the nationals, and he’s hoping to do the Worlds next year. He helps out with the Friday night juniors, preparing RIBs and boats, and assisting the coaches. He has his Powerboat L2 ticket, and is working towards a safety boat qualification. His reasons for volunteering are simple: “I like being on the water and driving powerboats as well as sailing. I know what to look out for from the safety boat, and I enjoy helping the juniors to learn and race safely.”

Last summer, Luca also volunteered at the Regional Junior Championships, and signed up to be on the RIB with the Regatta Fleet: “It was fun. I’ve never been on a coach RIB before, and seeing how they coach and seeing the kids getting to the level I did when I was younger was great.”

Luca’s advice to other youngsters considering volunteering is simple: “Go for it!  It’s great fun, and even if you’re a passenger on a RIB, you can learn a lot from coaches, and experience a lot too.”


Chloe left and Sophie right sailing dinghies

As youngsters who both started in boats at the age of just 1, Chloe and Sophie volunteer with Sailability@Whitefriars, part of Whitefriars Sailing Club. Their mum, Emma, is a sailing instructor with the group, and the two girls have been coming along to help in their school holidays, rigging the boats, dealing with sanitising and packing them away. In addition, Chloe (15) sometimes buddies in a 303, and Sophie (13) welcomes and greets people when they arrive. 

Both girls enjoy helping people learn to sail. Chloe is looking at qualifying as a Dinghy Instructor when she’s old enough, and over the next year her volunteering will be going towards her Silver DofE award. This six-month-long activity will involve her in the administration and fundraising aspects of Sailability@Whitefriars. She points out that the older volunteers make them feel welcome: “We take it in turns to make cake each week,” she says. “Sailability likes cake!”

Sophie is considering including her volunteering in her Bronze DofE award. Her advice to other young people is that volunteering is very worthwhile: “I like seeing the fact that people get so much joy out of going sailing, and that I’m helping them.”

Giving back

Charlotte left and Anna right, both wearing bobble hats and buoyancy aids, on the beach.

Another pair of sisters, Anna (19) and Charlotte (16), are volunteer instructors at Exe Sailing Club, where they came through the sailing and racing pathways and are now giving back to the community that helped them. Anna is a Dinghy Instructor and Race Coach, while Charlotte is an Assistant Instructor with plans to do her DI training next April and then get her Race Coach ticket too.

They do most of their volunteering in the summer months after school/work hours, teaching scout groups and improvers as well as stage 1 to 4 and more advanced courses at the weekends. On Fridays they take young carers out for a sail, making some time just for them, where they can enjoy splashing about, paddle races and such like. They also volunteer at the club’s Splash Nights, which are for young children too young for RYA courses, when the youngsters build water confidence and make friends through games. “If they’re willing, we teach them to sail too!” says Charlotte.

“We pretty much live at the club over the summer,” adds Anna. “We help with junior race training over the winter too – I’m on the coaching team and Charlotte’s encouraging the newer racers as an experienced sailor.” 

Anna feels that younger volunteers can relate to children a bit more: “We see things differently. Adults tends to have a bit more fear, and when we teach adult courses, we find some don’t like the boat tips and sail flaps, whereas the kids just want to go sailing! Also, older adult volunteers are sometimes not as keen to adapt to different environments and so the children may not see them as much fun.”

Charlotte’s advice for young volunteers, especially those teaching adults, is: “Be confident - you already know what you’re doing. Our roles are reversed, with children teaching adults, so don’t worry about age or what people might think.” Anna adds: “It’s very rewarding, and you get to know lots of people. Seeing others happy on the water, and being able to share our knowledge, is why we do it. We’re happy to make someone’s day by building their confidence or teaching them something new.”

Find out more about volunteering.