Many people would still think of the NSSA in its historical guise, as lots of traditional schools going off and sailing against each other.

But did you know 300 youngsters from across the UK will descend on Weymouth for the National Youth Regatta between 20-26 July? And your OnBoarders have got as much chance to get involved as anyone!

It might have started as a schools association, but the NSSA now works for anyone involved with youth sailing. By providing a framework of competitions to encourage young people to get involved in fleet racing, team racing and match racing in all types of dinghies, the NSSA promotes sailing for life.  

The National Youth Regatta is the flagship annual event, but when it comes to embedding a genuine love of sailing in young sailors or sailing newcomers, the event is about much more than what happens on the water.

As Jon Leeding, NSSA Treasurer, explains: "Teams from counties, clubs, schools and other youth organisations camp and eat together, young people grow socially by being with their friends and meeting new people and they enjoy the competition of sailing as much as having a kickabout back at the campsite at the end of the day. There's always a real atmosphere of everyone helping each other out." 

 Girl smiling in a Topper at the 2018 NSSA National Youth Regatta at Datchet © Jon Leeding/NSSAWhat's this got to do with OnBoard?

The Regatta features Rookie fleets to give new racers the chance to experience a large-scale event but in a fun, informal way. Racing is coached by instructors in RIBs on the water and sailing takes place closer to shore to make it all feel a bit less daunting.

The fleet really is open to all who are taking their first steps in racing, with the only requirement that they can tack and gybe a boat and sail around a racecourse in various wind strengths. Any type of dinghy is welcome. 

All teams have a Team Manager and if you have OnBoarders keen to get involved this year NSSA Secretary, Ellie Gaddes, can point you in the best direction. If you live in an area with a good county infrastructure she can put you in touch with your local association or she can help groups of clubs come together to form a new area team. Email any enquiries to Ellie at secretary@nssa-exec.org.uk

Meanwhile entries open here on Sunday (31 March) - National School Sailing Association Regatta

Jon continues: "The Rookie fleet attracts kids of all ages, from the youngest OnBoarders to 16 and 17-year-old teenagers who are also new to racing. It can actually be nice for the younger ones to see that you can come into sailing at different times and enjoy it. The Rookie fleet just enables all sailors to take the next step and we see how much the kids get out of the event altogether, even if it's not been brilliant weather for sailing."

Camping for this year's event is at Weymouth College and the full package includes camping and dinner on arrival Sunday to breakfast on departure Saturday. 

Adults that aren't involved with their teams during the day can also be event volunteers, including as safety crew and being on the committee boat. The NSSA covers the lodging and board of all event volunteers making it even more cost effective for teams to be part of the Regatta.

Sailors having fun on the slipway at the 2018 NSSA National Youth Regatta at Datchet © Jon Leeding/NSSAOnBoarders could apply for a Topper for a year too

If you have a young sailor you think could benefit from being loaned a boat for a year then they could be eligible for the NSSA Topper Loan Scheme. The NSSA has six race-rigged Toppers that it loans out to NSSA sailors for 12 months at no charge, with Team Managers nominating sailors who might otherwise struggle to continue sailing without additional support.

Nominations open at the National Youth Regatta with the following year's recipients selected in September. The successful nominees collect their boats at the NSSA Single Handed Team Racing Championships in October. The only condition is they continue to attend NSSA events while they 'own' the boat.

Jon concludes: "We would love to see more OnBoard sailors competing at the National Youth Regatta this year and then enjoying the range of different sailing competitions and events the NSSA organises. It's very much an inclusive environment that's completely focused on supporting all youth sailing.

"We're proud of our history, but are excited by what the NSSA means to young people now. I know the difference it made to me when I was a kid sailing as part of the Cambridgeshire team, and it's lovely seeing the impact it continues to have today."