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East Lothian Yacht Club recognising volunteers with COTY

This is the sixth instalment in a series of case studies, examining the achievements and examples of best practice from this year’s Club of the Year finalists.

The 2019 RYA and Yachts & Yachting Club of the Year Awards supported by Gallagher were the biggest ever, and the RYA Awards Panel were blown away by the fantastic work, innovation and outstanding achievement of all of this year’s 11 finalists. Read on to find out more about this month’s featured finalist.

Founded in 1928, East Lothian Yacht Club (ELYC) is an all year round active club based in North Berwick, a small Scottish Burgh in East Lothian which was given the Royal Charter in 1373.

Having previously won the RYA Scotland Club of the Year back in 2007, the 91 year old club has, in recent years, built a fine reputation of running dinghy national championships as well as providing sailing for over 400 members.

Here Club Secretary Doug Lothian, tells us more about how ELYC has successfully attracted new and old members alike.

An evening for youngsters

ELYC has firmly set its sights on developing Friday evenings for youngsters. This evening in particular is now a great success for the club with engaging with young people. Doug comments: “We often have over 40 primarily cadets having fun on the water – this is the future of the Club and great to see.”

This year’s cadets have been fantastic in engaging with the club and 12 recently took part in the Scottish Club Trophy event. This event is aimed at young sailors who have just started racing and want to represent their club and come to a friendly racing environment. The 2019 event took place at Loch Earn Sailing Club, Perthshire. Doug added: “Many of these cadets have only started sailing this year. A great experience.”

Increasing membership

Historically with an ageing membership and cadet numbers falling, the club recognised that it needed to do something. So a membership drive was set up around the RYA’s Push The Boat Out (PTBO) to attract cadets and families. During a very successful open day weekend the club attracted 212 people who enjoyed a massive 266 experiences on the water.

From these participants the club was able to successfully grow its membership. Doug said: “Our very successful Push The Boat Out weekend attracted 33 new members. Pleasingly we also had 65 Club volunteers helping over the weekend.”


Following the initial success of PTBO, the club then scheduled further training courses. These were filled with nearly 50 people, 36 cadets and 13 adults, all learning to sail. A further 32 people then attended a 3 day race camp for ‘improvers’ and 21 people successfully completed their PB2 certificate.

The club has also put in place an agreed strategy for future years, which also involves Senior Instructors and Race coaches taking courses.


Varying activities

The Club organises several opportunities for youngsters to sail away from their own local waters as Doug said: “We have also been able to reward our cadets with an opportunity to sail with Ocean Youth Trust onboard their Challenge 72 boat for a weekend – another fantastic experience.” Ocean Youth Trust Scotland are a leading youth charity which offers adventurous residential sailing voyages for 12 – 25 year olds.

As part of the club’s open and inclusion policy, it negotiated a ‘Land Rover Sailing Experience’. Doug adds; “This brought something different to the Club and we were able to introduce a further 75 children to sailing.”

In line with inclusion, the club has also invited local Girl Guides to run the club’s café for a day. This helped them raise funds and also gave them the opportunity to see the club in action.

ELYC is based within the community harbour of North Berwick; the club uses this to its full potential and actively promote community centric events. The club calendar runs year round and includes non-competitive fun sailing, race training, competitive racing and community social events.

The inclusive nature results in generational support from our club members with children, parents and grandparents actively participating and volunteering.

The Club of the Year experience

ELYC entered the Club of the Year Awards because of its volunteers. As Doug comments: “We wanted to recognise all the hard work our volunteers put into running our Club.”

The club found the application and selection process time consuming but ultimately a worthwhile exercise and would recommend all other clubs to think about applying.

“We all too often focus on problems and what must improved. The process makes you stop and think about all the good things your members do for the Club and what they achieved.”

And finally Doug’s advice to clubs thinking about applying is: “The most important factor is to make it fun!”

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