Gurnard Sailing Club has been named a British Youth Sailing (BYS) Recognised Club as part of the RYA scheme celebrating excellence in developing the best young racing sailors in the world.

The BYS Recognised Club initiative sees the sport’s governing body, the RYA, working alongside sailing clubs around the country to promote grassroots sailing and support junior and youth sailors as they develop racing skills.

Gurnard Sailing Club was recognised for its thriving junior and youth sailing and racing pathway which gives children, from as young as five, their first experience of sailing and develops their racing skills as they progress through the club’s Youth and Junior race and training programmes.

Luke Bradley, Gurnard SC junior pathway coordinator, said: “Our junior and youth sailing is really thriving at the moment, this is a product of many years dedicated effort towards this aim. It is great that this is being acknowledged through our new British Youth Sailing status.”

To help introduce local youngsters to sailing, the club’s racing pathway begins with “Sharks and Dolphins”. Held every Saturday morning, children learn how to sail a dinghy in a fun and safe environment.

Luke commented: “The Sharks and Dolphins pathway for our youngest children is all about fun. They go afloat with their parents and friends, and have a fun time which usually involves them, and more often than not the parents, getting very wet. This builds confidence afloat and the youngsters start to learn to sail without realising it is happening.”

The club’s successful racing pathway helps develop youngsters’ sailing skills with many going on to compete in regional, national and international championships. Youth squad members in the 29er class recently won last year’s National Championship. During 2019 the club was also represented by five sailors at the Optimist Class Nationals and 6 sailors at the Tera Class Nationals. Gurnard also has sailors participating in the Optimist, 420 and 29er regional and national squads.

Gurnard SC also organises class specific training. Last autumn the club ran a very successful program of RS Tera training, which was attended by over 20 sailors, with coaching led by Olympic and Paralympic British Sailor Helena Lucas MBE. The event also incorporated the inaugural Isle of Wight Tera Championships.

The Club believes that providing sailing opportunities for children is very important to the local community. Children not only learn to sail in the lovely setting of Gurnard Bay but also develop life skills along the way: many of the club’s junior sailors become the next generation of Assistant Instructors and Dinghy Instructors.

Families without their own boats are also catered for. The club has 12 dinghies to enable children without their own boat to participate in sail training and club racing. Gurnard has also linked up with local sailing centre, UKSA, and plans to provide two youngsters from the local area a free place on its cadet training program.

The club also subsidises its youth sailors to gain instructor and powerboat
qualifications. Luke added: “This not only provides the club with the resources required to deliver training but also gives the children qualifications and experience which they can take with them far and wide.”

During lockdown, when Gurnard’s juniors couldn’t get afloat, many embraced eSailing and took part in online Virtual Regatta racing. This proved to be an excellent platform for the youngsters helping them see racing from a different angle and develop new skills.

With the easing of restrictions, Gurdards’ youngsters have now been allowed back on the water and have been making up for lost time. With no formal racing at the club at the moment, they have been heading out in small groups for fun sailing and informal training. Luke added: “They are very self-motivated with some sailing pretty much every day when the conditions are good”.

Duncan West, regional performance manager for the south region said: "The BYS Recognised Club scheme distinguishes those sailing clubs with a commitment to the development of junior and youth racing and race training, which is delivered in a safe and fun environment. Gurnard Sailing Club does this very successfully and I warmly congratulate Gurnard on achieving BYS Recognised Club status.”

Duncan added: “The key challenge for our sport is to encourage more young people to start sailing at a young age and progress into racing. This is best done at club level with successful training and racing programmes which will enable a club to flourish. Gurnard is a fine example of this.”

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