Plymouth Youth Sailing (PYS) is in partnership with the Mount Batten Centre (MBC) and the Plymouth School of Creative Arts (known locally as the Red Box) in a three-year project funded by Sport England that aims to engage families and young people in activity together.

The three organisations, which form part of a community hub in the waterfront area at Millbay, applied a year ago for a grant from the Sport England Families Fund, which recognises that some sport is about activity and healthy lifestyle, rather than competition. Their success in gaining a grant is exceptional: only two projects in the south west have been funded in this way, and this is the only one with a school as lead partner.

While the project is built around low participation numbers, it encourages a high level of involvement of people in activity, something that others have failed to achieve. Targeting 150 families a year, it includes sailing, paddlesports, surfing and swimming, with PYS delivering sailing in keelboats and dinghies, and MBC offering the paddlesports. In the first six months 75 families were targeted, with trial sessions and then pathways for continued participation: “It’s a bit like OnBoard for families,” said PYS Commodore Adrian Kemp. “So far we’ve had three generations in one boat – we think that’s a great way to develop the activity!”

More taster sessions are planned for the early spring, with Stage 1 and 2 courses following on over the Easter holidays. PYS already has people booking up to get involved, and at the start of May, as part of the RYA Push the Boat Out programme, it will be holding a Watersports Festival Day right in the heart of the community, in Millbay Docks, with aim of attracting even more families to the programme.

The key outcome targets are also ambitious: to link with the Mayflower 400 project and NSSA regatta in 2020 – the biggest annual gathering of youth sailors other than RYA Youth Championships. Sport England representatives have already visited, as they are keen to see how the project is being delivered, and they were amazed that so much had been achieved in the first few months, including attracting regular participants.

Adrian concludes: “We look to further develop our families programmes over the next two years, taking careful note of all comments made in feedback monitoring from those taking part. The key to participation is to ensure your offer is what people actually want, delivered in an accessible way at a time that works for them.”