The SW Affiliated Clubs Conference put the focus firmly on volunteers when around 80 delegates from across the region gathered in the excellent conference facility at The Bristol Pavilion on Saturday, 9 November. Led by Regional Development Officer Rob Howlett and RYA staff from both HQ and the regions, the event explored ways to recruit, manage and retain volunteers, offering over a dozen different club development workshops covering everything from coach and instructor development to the legal aspects of volunteer and staff recruitment.

A quick poll at the beginning of the conference confirmed that everyone needs more volunteers, and that generally, 20% of club members are dealing with well over half the necessary duties. Most delegates were in agreement that it is important to give something back to volunteers to encourage them to continue.

Lois Noyce, Chief Instructor at Horizons sailing charity, commented: “We only have two members of staff, so we’re very grateful for our volunteers so that we can put on all the activity we do. We do put on volunteer socials, but sometimes we find they’re just happy come down and enjoy the sailing and to see each other. But we do loads of volunteer training too, in the winter when they’re not sailing - all the training we can give them. It was nice to see from the poll statistics that all clubs are the same as ours, and everyone’s ‘in the same boat.’”

The RYA plans to help clubs to increase volunteering – an upcoming webinar on Thursday 5 December at 7pm will begin that process, and booking will open shortly.

There were also workshops about helping young people develop through sailing and windsurfing, environmental and sustainability planning, running ‘women on the water’ activity to boost membership, organising open days and much more - this video gives a taste of the day's proceedings.

Networking in breaks was busy, noisy and extremely productive! Feedback from delegates, some of whom had travelled from South Devon and East Dorset to be there, was very positive.

For more information on volunteer support and retention, visit Club Zone.