Olton Mere SC have been trialling a project with the University of the Third Age to get people on the water
Building links with local community groups is one of the most effective ways to get people through your doors. So often we think about this in terms of younger sailors; schools, youth groups, Scouts and Guides. But it’s equally relevant at the other end of the spectrum too.
We know from the Futures research that the number of 55-65 year olds is growing in the UK.
With Active Ageing a key Sport England focus area and a general acceptance that people increasingly want to stay active for longer, the water could provide the activity they didn’t even know they were looking for.
The University of the Third Age (U3A) is one organisation that provides opportunities for people who have finished working full-time or raising a family to develop their interests and continue their learning in a friendly and informal environment.
And with 1,043 local U3As across the UK, with over 425,000 members, that is a lot of people who might appreciate the chance to get afloat. That’s exactly a route Olton Mere SC has explored this year.
The club, situated near Solihull, has been running sessions for the U3A’s Olton and District branch once a month on a Friday afternoon. Up to 10 people can go along, with the club asking a £10 per person donation towards the upkeep of the boats.
The idea was born when the wife of Olton Mere member and instructor, Kevin Watts, got involved in U3A after retiring a couple of years ago. When Kevin himself retired and joined her this year, setting up a sailing session seemed a good option.
Kevin explains: “The intent is not specifically to teach them to sail, it is advertised as more of a ‘come and experience sailing’, so if they really wish to take it up they can join the club and we can put them through our accredited RYA Level 1 and 2 courses.
“As with many U3A activity groups, it is as much an opportunity for socialising as it is for the activity itself, and the participants are quite happy to be on the Mere, watching the wildlife, taking tea and cake, etc. In these early stages we are keeping it at a low level, but we see it as yet another activity stream keeping the sailing club integrated into the local community.”
Olton Mere is a recognised RYA Sailability site and as such they having been using the club’s stable Hansa 303 and 203 dinghies for the U3A activity. However, those participants who wish to experience something more challenging or physical have also gone out with Kevin in an a RS Quest or a Bahia.
The sessions are advertised locally through the Olton branch’s monthly newsletter and on the website where the club is described as “a tranquil location for messing about in boats” and the activity is sold by asking, “What could be better than pottering about in a sailing dinghy
on a summer afternoon?”
Amongst the session volunteers are 13-year-old Dan Seaton (pictured), one of the club’s youth sailors, who helped out by showing some of the U3A sailors the basic principles.
Kevin adds: “We are fortunate at the club to have an enthusiastic group of RYA instructors, who are interested in getting all sorts of people on the water and not solely focused on club racing. This has been led in recent years by our Training Principal, Andrew Yates, who has promoted our Sailabilty and support for groups of children with learning difficulties.
“In a sense, we are running the U3A activity as a sort of Sailabilty session and accepting that we are not really trying to compete with the club and it's RTC, but instead just giving a taste to those who don't want to fully take up the activity yet.”
Think this is something your club could offer?
First find if there is a local U3A branch near you…
If there is click, into that branch, and you will be able to find all the information about the activities the branch currently runs plus the branch contact details. Why not drop them a line to see if they are interested in adding ‘sailing’ to their local offer to members? It could be a win-win all round.
Did you know…
According to Sport England, 36% of people aged 55+ are currently inactive, compared to 26% of the overall population. But the over 55s age group is diverse: there are big differences in perceptions, experiences, motivations and capabilities.
Find books for your course at the RYA Shop
Our handy guide shows the books & DVDs that go with your course!