There's a big wide world out there. Yet if you're growing up sailing in the Midlands, you could be forgiven for thinking that 'boats' just means dinghies and racing and 'water' equals reservoirs and rivers.

But what happens to those youngsters who are over racing their Toppers every weekend by their mid-teens? How do we give them a new injection of enthusiasm to stop them abandoning sailing altogether?

Well, getting them on the sea early is one option.

Sail training can be a really powerful way to inspire kids and get them fully immersed in the breadth of what sailing can offer not only to widen their horizons of sailing experiences, but to also open up potential new career pathways that had never previously been on their radar.

As Gareth Brookes, RYA Midlands Regional Development Officer, explains: "Post-16 drop off is a genuine thing in sailing, but by introducing kids to different types of sailing while their interest levels are still high, there is more chance of keeping them involved in the sport into adulthood."

Open waves

This is what Banbury Sailing Club figured in 2016 as they launched a weekend away for their youth sailors with Ipswich-based Adventures Offshore, an RYA Training Centre and a member of the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO), a charity recognised by the RYA for their work in getting people on the water.

Getting involved in sail training doesn't have to come through a sailing club, but Banbury recognised the need to keep kids engaged beyond dinghy racing and decided that giving those who wanted it a taste of life offshore would show them there is more to sailing than dinghies inland.

Paul Drewery, Youth Administrator at Banbury, had himself enjoyed positive big boat experiences through sail training organisations in his teens, and was a huge advocate of the different life skills and enjoyment that offshore sailing can foster.

So 10 of the club's youngsters teamed up on one of Adventures Offshore's two 50ft Oyster ketches - the other being crewed by adult Banbury members also keen for a big boat awakening - and ventured into the North Sea, out to the intriguing Principality of Sealand. Another group of Banbury kids will repeat the voyage next month.

Paul says: "First and foremost it's a good, fun weekend. The youths are on the boat with the Adventures Offshore skipper and mate, and they are responsible for sailing the boat, cooking and cleaning. The biggest thing they bring away from the weekend is nothing will happen if they don’t work as a team. Hopefully it also showed them there is a lot more to sailing than they had seen up to then."

So taken were they with their offshore experience, this year two Banbury youths took part in Sail Training International's Tall Ships Races, one from Ipswich - Sunderland - Esbjerg (Denmark), the other from Stavanger (Norway) - Harlingen (Netherlands) - Ipswich. One lad has also just completed his RYA Day Skipper Practical.

Marine opportunities

Meanwhile, when it comes to exploring marine industry careers and professional development, the doors are as wide open to sailors with inland experience as coastal.

Take 18-year-old Worcestershire Youth Sailing Association (WYSA) graduate Ed Rose, who this autumn starts a four year degree / cadetship in Superyacht Operations at UKSA in Cowes. Ed is a bonafide inland dinghy sailor, who has followed a Topper - Laser Radial pathway to the top 10 at this year's National Schools' Sailing Association (NSSA) National Youth Regatta at Datchet Water. 

Yet, despite contemplating traditional higher education options to study IT, his experiences working part-time as an RYA Dinghy Instructor at Aztec Adventure near Bromsgrove had shown him he didn't want a career behind a desk. Now the world really is his oyster.

Ed's dad Elliot explains: "As part of the course Ed gains a qualification to captain really big superyachts up to 3,000 tonnes.

"It requires a combination of academic study - gaining a foundation degree in operational yacht science through Plymouth University, practical qualifications such as navigation, Ocean Yachtmaster etc, and two placements, up to 12 months, aboard a superyacht typically in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. He's experienced one type of sailing and now he can't wait to explore what else the marine world can offer."

Want to know more?

If you're a youngster or a parent who wants to expand your knowledge of what opportunities are out there the Charities & Foundations page on the RYA website is a good starting point.

Or if you're a club who would like to explore taking your youngsters on a trip like Banbury, email Gareth Brookes and he will be able to provide you with some advice and contacts.  

One quick tip though...the main thing is to plan ahead. Most sail training organisations will be starting to put their programmes together for next year so if your club wants to get exclusive use of a boat/fleet you need to be talking to them now.