We've all seen the power of sailing for good. But the young people that could benefit the most from the opportunity to get on the water are also typically the ones who are the hardest to reach.
However in Cornwall, the Roseland Youth Sailing Trust is making sure those who most need support do not miss out as 450 young people prepare to get afloat thanks to the Trust this summer.
But the charity is not doing it by taking them sailing themselves. Instead the Trust works to connect schools with sailing providers, and since its launch in 2015 it has grown from working with two local schools to 16 countywide this year.
It's an impressive volunteer-led organisation, driven by a passionate belief that, in a county surrounded by water and hit hard by the collapse of its traditional industries, every young person should be able take advantage of the watersports opportunities on their doorstep and they shouldn't have to pay for it.
As co-founder Dina Croft explains: "There are so many places sailing can take you, and the coastal water is the best resource we have in Cornwall. Yet inland there is a mining history and many of the young people have never been to the beach despite living half an hour from the sea. It's about opening doors to new possibilities.
"It's changing families too. Parents are managing to get to the beach to see their children on the water, which is helping them overcome their mental hurdles about sailing too, and one mum told me her son was now talking about joining the Navy. Sailing has a transformative effect but you have to be able to experience it to know it."
Removing the barriers
One of the challenges all OnBoard venues have is getting 'ins' into and engaging with schools. That's where the Trust comes into its own.
Its raison d'être is to provide and co-ordinate everything and make sailing hassle free for schools. It acts as the conduit between the schools and its OnBoard partners, Polkerris Beach and Roseland Paddle and Sail, to provide free lessons during the school day in the summer term and the first half of the autumn term, organise the session slots and calculate the required ratios and even sort transport when required.
The aim is for nothing to get in the way of children experiencing sailing. And because they want to embed a watersports culture in schools, sailing isn't offered as a one-off, rather the Trust builds ongoing relationships with primary schools and the secondary schools they feed in to, while still working to reach new ones.
With so many schools now part of clusters, Dina targets cluster meetings rather than individual schools to try to get the opportunity to speak to as many senior leaders at once about the power of sailing. It's an approach she would recommend to any OnBoard venue.
"If I send a prospective email to a school saying we'd like to pay for free school sailing lessons, it either goes straight to spam or gets ignored for being too good to be true!" Dina admits.
Grants are also available for individuals to do further RYA Training courses and Tall Ships voyages, for example, while reciprocal partnerships with local organisations such as the Falmouth Working Boats Association provide other pathways for young people to continue to sail.
Success breeds success
Having been involved with junior sailing at her home club, St Mawes SC, Dina's aim was to give the same chance to as many young people as possible, and through schools was the most cost effective and inclusive way. Governors were recruited as Trustees to help provide the initial contact with the schools on the Roseland Peninsula. However, once those first schools were involved, word soon started to spread.
Dina was approached by the Head of Foxhole Learning Academy in St Austell - the heart of Cornwall's Clay County - for a 'special day for their pupils who had never been to the beach.' And so it grew from there.
This year Pencalenick School, a special education school in Truro, will learn to sail at Mylor Sailability, the first time the Trust has worked with its latest OnBoard partner, Mylor Sailing School.
Meanwhile, the Trust is also partnering with Dr. Ian Frampton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Exeter and Director of the Cornwall Children’s Research Service, on a three-season evaluation programme to quantify the impact of participation for the children and to help develop and refine the Trust's activities.
Dina says feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We hear so many lovely stories," she adds. "One young wheelchair user now describes herself as a sailor. A mum rang to say her son has a reason to get up in the morning having discovered sailing. A Headteacher reported he has watched his pupils bonding over the excitement of sailing and they are also working better in the classroom for having had fresh air and exercise.
"With the OnBoard centres we work with embedding the character attributes to positively shape young lives through the sessions they deliver, we're excited to hear more of these good news stories as we work for an even greater number of young people to have the opportunities we think should be a given."