It’s OnBoard but not as we know it. 2017 sees the RYA’s grassroots programme get a re-launch. But what does that mean for you, the people delivering OnBoard? We take a look.

Imagine sparking a passion for sailing in a child. Imagine watching that child’s confidence and independence grow week-by-week. Imagine inspiring that youngster so much they always want to fit sailing into their life.

This is what sits at the heart of the new-look OnBoard, and as the sailing clubs running OnBoard and working week in, week out with such youngsters, you can make all that happen.

“In sailing, we know the life skills and positive attributes sailing can bring a child or young person,” explains Alistair Dickson, RYA Director of Sport Development. “The new-look OnBoard really focuses on harnessing and communicating these benefits to successfully engage with teachers, youth leaders and parents to help them see beyond sailing as a sport purely for fun. But rather as an activity that embeds traits that can shape a child’s life, while having a great time in the process.”

“As instructors so much time and effort goes into introducing young people to sailing and it can be frustrating then not seeing them continue. Not only do we believe the new life skills focus will help us achieve better retention, but instructors can feel they are having a really positive impact on a child’s future.”

The practical stuff

OnBoard is set to be re-launched in June, and over the following months OnBoard clubs and centres will receive a host of new resources to support instructors in achieving the programme’s refreshed aims.

Central to this is the introduction of OnBoard session cards, developed by renowned RYA junior sailing coach, Alan Williams, in association with Professor Bill Lucas, Director at the Centre for Real-World Learning, The University of Winchester.

Bill has looked closely at the positive attributes sailing can foster and is working with Alan and RYA Participation Manager, Victoria Lenz, to ensure each session achieves the maximum possible outcome in relation to specific life skills.

Sailing skill development through the session cards is in line with the RYA Youth Sailing Scheme and will be delivered through session cards including guidance on how to use the cards.

“The session cards are not intended to be prescriptive,” Alistair continues. “But can give instructors real structure and ideas in planning good sessions. They are about sharing good practice with specific consideration given to the life skills outcomes.

“We would love to get to the point that instructors see the cards and think it would actually be silly not to use them as there is so much insightful content included that can really support and inform the conversations you are having with teachers and parents about why their children should start and continue sailing.

“If a teacher or parent knows what benefits sailing can bring, and then sees positive changes in their children, they can attribute it directly to sailing increasing the likelihood of a child being encouraged to stay in the sport.”

Other items will include rash vests, children and instructor resources, prizes, and guidance booklets tailored for clubs and centres including case studies on the how OnBoard has opened up opportunities for both types of venue.

Why the change?

The government’s ‘Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation’ strategy launched in 2015 looked at activity not just in terms of physical fitness but, amongst other factors, mental wellbeing and social and community development too.

With mental health and wellbeing high on the national education agenda, and our own OnBoard Survey showing a significant number of clubs running OnBoard because of its positive impact in the local community, OnBoard had to reflect what people now want from a sport and be repositioned as able to achieve these outcomes.

Grasmere Primary in the Lake District is one school that has seen sailing have such an impact on its pupils that they have made it one of their extracurricular activities.

Headteacher Jo Goode explains: “We have children who it has absolutely transformed. They feel a sense of achievement from doing something on their own and it gives them greater confidence, which is reflected in the classroom, even, for example, not being afraid to ask for help or put their hand up and answer a question.

“Sailing changes so fast and it teaches them how to read a situation and deal with problems from an early age and these are skills that constantly feed into academic learning and later life.

“Many children say being on the water is the first time in their lives they have felt freedom like it. There are no mums and dads telling them what to do, it is all on them. The adrenaline and independence they get from being in control and making their own decisions is amazing.”

This is why inspiring instructors to inspire the children is the first step to improving OnBoard retention and increasing overall participation in the sport.

Alistair concludes: “OnBoard is crucial in providing the foundation for the future of our sport. This new approach enables us to share the real value of sailing. It is a change in mindset, but it is an exciting opportunity for people to see sailing for the sport we know it to be and for clubs and centres to benefit too.”

If you’re not currently signed up to OnBoard, now is the time to make it happen. Visit the OnBoard website or contact Cat Ferguson OnBoard Operations Officer,