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Top Tips from 2019 COTY Winner Royal Torbay Yacht Club

This year the RYA and Yachts & Yachting Club of the Year Awards supported by Gallagher, were bigger than ever before! 

The RYA awards panel were blown away by the fantastic work, innovation and outstanding achievement of all 11 finalists.

This month’s featured club is the 2019 Club of the Year winner Royal Torbay Yacht Club from Devon. Here Michael Kirk, Club Manager and Adrian Peach, Commodore, give some advice and ‘top tips’ for clubs thinking about entering this year’s Awards.

Michael Kirk, Club Manager says: “This award has allowed us to raise the profile of the club locally, nationally and internationally, as we host international events, and we have had press coverage we wouldn’t have had before, even in one of the Sunday papers – so we find that people visiting us know we’ve won the award and are keen to see it.”

Adrian Peach, Commodore, adds “My advice to any clubs wanting to enter for these awards is make sure you get all your ducks in a row. Read through the criteria, and make sure you fulfil them before you apply. A key learning we came across was that asking our members what they want, in great detail, gave us a big insight; looking after the members you’ve got is just as important as recruiting new members!”

“We applied once we’d consulted with our members, and had produced an up-to-date development plan – it was a very worthwhile expense to get someone in to help with that. Now that we are winners, it’s not so much the award itself, but the work we did to get there that’s been so valuable. Having said that, the award has been brilliant recognition for our members, because volunteers are the lifeblood of any club, and it’s boosted our profile locally to generate membership. And it’s a lovely ‘halo’ over the club that just gives us a bit of an edge and recognises the people who are proud to be a part of it. Even if you don’t win, if you go through the process, with a plan and an outside-in view of what you do, getting everything right will help any club improve its future.”

In more recent years, attention has been concentrated on ways of improving the Club’s financial well being in addition to providing the members with a Club in which they can be proud. These measures have included schemes for re-development of the premises, the possible re-location of the Club’s operations to Coral Island, the formalising of the Club’s business management as well as continuing to seek new members and to host prestigious waterborne events.

Why was your club recognised for ‘Fantastic Facilities’?

“We believe it’s because the forward-thinking investment we made in improving the facilities, especially décor has had two effects. Firstly with our clubhouse now being a much more pleasant space to spend time, it makes it a much more attractive space to come and spend time either eating, in the bar or at specific events. Secondly, we now have a highly marketable space for external functions. In addition to parties we are now hosting wedding receptions, wakes, corporate events, dinners for the local Marina and more. These not only generate revenue for the club, but also raise our profile generally giving us further opportunities to drive membership.” said Michael.

What is your top tip for other clubs for making the most of their facilities, creating opportunities and adding value for members and the club?

Michael believes what makes the club special are the volunteers, but expects every club would say that! He adds: “I would say all the activity over the past year or so has created a buzz around the club, which in a way feeds on itself. I would also say committees should not be afraid to look at the club as the running of a business, that is very much the approach we take. That doesn’t mean everything has to be charged for, but activities should always be with a view to either increasing membership or retaining membership by increasing the value to the member.”

Any additional comments on top tips for running a successful club/what works for you/what makes Royal Torbay special (and our Club of the Year!)?

“I would say first and foremost make the most of what you already have before anything else and don’t be afraid to do away with facilities that are no longer attracting a reasonable level of use so the resource can be used to provide for the wider membership.” Michael added.

On winning the 2019 Club of the Year, Adrian commented: “This award means such a lot to us as a club because we are a club of volunteers and, as volunteers, it’s really nice to have the recognition that this award brings. Whilst the award is fantastic, there are five categories which help you to focus on something you’ve done really well and can lead to a lot of positively in your club. My advice to clubs is to just enter: check the criteria and do it!”



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