"For the whole family to be taken out in a boat by a competent and articulate 15 or 16 year old is a great incentive to inspire parents to want their own children to become involved."

Vivien Brookes, Chair of the Worcestershire School Sailing and Canoeing Association (WSSCA) OnBoard club is reflecting on what made their recent Push The Boat Out involvement successful.

Push The Boat Out once again saw many thousands of people try sailing and windsurfing at 380 clubs and centres in May. But, for the first time, WSSCA recognised they too could take advantage of the chance to use Push The Boat Out for its own OnBoard recruitment drive.

The result? A new WSSCA evening session on summer Friday evenings filled from Push The Boat Out, and a great model for OnBoard supporting Push The Boat Out and Push The Boat Out resulting in a growth in OnBoard activity and families getting back into sailing. 

So how did they do it?

Going full circle 

WSSCA is the OB section at Aztec Adventure Upton Warren, a commercial watersports centre near Worcester. Aztec have always been staunch supporters of Push The Boat Out, running multiple events since the RYA's nationwide 'get involved' initiative was launched in 2012.

Due to the traditional popularity of the Aztec Push The Boat Out events, this year, WSSCA offered to support the centre and its adjoining club Upton Warren SC by providing volunteers who have progressed through their OnBoard set-up.

What they ended up with was a recruitment drive that other centres could also replicate at future open and taster days and Push The Boat Out events.

Vivien explains: "Initially we did not set out to do this as a recruitment drive, I just thought as so many people that attended Push The Boat Out last year were youngsters, they would enjoy going out with another youngster. It was only after I had some young volunteer helpers I came up with the idea of setting up a new evening session before Push The Boat Out in case there was some interest to fill it.

"Even I was really surprised and impressed at how well it did work. The young people were taking adults sailing as well as youngsters and I think this really impressed everybody. All the bookings were from families where one or both parents used to sail but stopped to have a family and are now keen to continue together. 

"In my experience, once you have the children involved, it is much easier to get the parents involved, as they are going to be attending the club/centre anyway, and many parents will naturally develop an interest in their children's activities. This was exactly how I started sailing, after my own son had got into it through school."

Enjoy the joyride

Of the 10 current or former WSSCA OnBoarders who either helmed or volunteered shoreside at Push The Boat Out, a number have gained their instructor qualifications and / or are in RYA Zone squads.

Vivien says none of the youngsters needed incentivising to get involved and admits the fact the tasters were done in Fevas, Bahias or cruisers, boats that some of the youngsters had never sailed before, was a real credit to not only their sailing ability but their maturity too. 

Having reserved the Friday evening session at Aztec for potential new OnBoarders ahead of Push The Boat Out, a couple of non-sailing WSSCA parents manned the welcome tent to talk to families as they arrived and to raise awareness of the opportunities to sail together, as well as sharing some of their experiences as parents. 

To help spread the word pre-event, Vivien sent Aztec's Push The Boat Out poster and a WSSCA poster to all current sailors and schools to put up at their own schools. Everyone was also encouraged to tell their friends and parents to try to get more non-sailing parents on the water.

Despite not having the opportunity to book a course on the day itself - something Vivien says she would change for next year - all eight families who expressed an interest in signing up actually did after the event and they filled that new Friday session. Vivien insists this is in no small part down to the young OnBoard volunteers.

She added: "We always talk about the life skills sailing promotes in young people, but for parents to see it themselves in youngsters who have been sailing for a couple of years makes the sailors your best advert.

"The willingness of WSSCA sailors to volunteer showed a generosity of their free time, confidence, maturity, self assuredness and excellent social skills as they were not only sailing but also talking about WSSCA at the same time.

"The upshot from our OnBoard involvement in Push the Boat Out is a new session for WSSCA, more summer holiday bookings for Aztec Adventure and families wishing to join Upton Warren SC. We will definitely add this to our calendar to be involved in again next year."