The RYA OnBoard Fun Fleets are a series of fun regional events which take place at the same time as the British Youth Sailing Regional Junior Championships (RJC) over one weekend in various locations across the country. This year’s event has just taken place over the weekend of 26 – 27 September.

Due to restrictions from the current Coronvirus pandemic, with resulting low numbers, unfortunately some of the regional events were cancelled. The weather also had something to say about the East event taking place and unfortunately the windy conditions meant that the Fun Fleet, along with all the weekend’s sailing for the Junior Championships was cancelled.

The good news is that the North Fun Fleet held at the Anderton Centre, along with the combined South and South West event at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, based at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, went ahead.

Like the rest of the UK, the North event experienced big winds but also some big smiles from the OnBoarders. The North OnBoarders (from Leigh & Lowton SC, Yorkshire Dales SC, Ullswater YC, Burwain SC and West Lancashire YC) were also kept busy with activities ranging from exploring Rivington Reservoir to blasting across the water in some short fun races.  

Adam McGovern, Regional Development Officer North West said: “Numbers took a bit hit with over 50% cancelling last minute due to being in school bubbles that are self-isolating or local restrictions however for the 9 junior sailors that could make it they had a fantastic weekend of games and learning with a mixture of winds from 20 knots to 0!”  From our work with the University of Winchester and Professor Bill Lucas, we know that getting out on the water helps bring many broader learning benefits to youngsters. In particular, we now know that OnBoard provides an excellent platform for developing six key attributes:

  1. Independence
  2. Communication
  3. Creativity
  4. Teamwork
  5. Determination
  6. Confidence

Susie Moore, RYA Regional Development Officer for South region was keen to incorporate the attributes into the 2020 OnBoard Fun Fleet: “Although the Fun Fleet is all about having fun and introducing young sailors to sailing at a different venue, perhaps for the first time, I was also keen to include games which help develop key skills other than straight forward sailing. For example, we included a sailing game which involved the OnBoarders working together in teams of four in a Reaching relay game. This helped develop their teamwork skills. The wind and gusty conditions certainty helped build the youngsters determination and also gave them a huge amount of confidence in their skills and ability on the water.”

16 OnBoarders took part each day at the combined South and South West Fun Feet.  Aged from 8 up to 13, the young sailors were towed to different parts of the harbour to find a sheltered beach with a favourable wind direction (cold NW wing gusting over 20 knots on both days) in which to use their sailing skills which focused on launching and recovery and boat control and balance.  

Rob Howlett, South West Regional Development Officer added: “There were lots of happy children who had a great day, increased their skills, made new friends and for many, took part in sailing in a new venue and a different boat."    

Don’t take our word for it…  

“I just wanted to say thank you for a fantastically organised day on Saturday - for both my daughter (who did the OnBoard Fleet) and my son (racing in a Feva).  Both the kids had a really great day.  It was a first for my daughter - but she really enjoyed herself and commented on the good coaching from Henry (apparently some really useful tips give).   He was great with the group. So all in all, a great success. Many thanks.”  

“My son had a wonderful time on Saturday and we loved seeing the amazing facilities at Portland. The training looked excellent and I was so proud of my son being out in the bay on quite a windy day. It was a fantastic day, thank you for all your hard work.”

“Thanks so much for today - my boys loved it.  It’s great they got some sailing in despite the windy conditions.”

Hannah Cockle, RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, added: “This is the third year that the OnBoard Fun Fleets have featured at the RJC and with such a turbulent year I’m really pleased that OnBoarders from the North and combined South and South West events were able to get on the water and celebrate the end of the season. “

The aim of the Fun Fleets is to give the youngest or most inexperienced OnBoard sailors their first taste of travelling to an event, sailing at a different location and having fun whilst making new friends and learning new skills. Although featuring some fun races, it's not racing and prizes are awarded in line with the OnBoard character attributes, such as displaying teamwork, determination and communication. It's 'Games with aims'.