Over 80 people tried sailing with Northampton Sailability when they held a joint Push The Boat Out event with Northampton Sailing Club last May.

In 2017, 383 venues UK-wide hosted a Push The Boat Out event, with more than 25,000 people getting afloat. Northampton was one of 56 Sailability sites that promoted accessible activities as part of the national 'try sailing' festival.

This means there is real potential to grow that number when Push The Boat Out returns for the whole of May this year. If you're an RYA Training Centre (sailing or windsurfing) or part of an RYA affiliated club, you can get involved. 

After Northampton's RYA Training Principal, Geoff Warren, described Push The Boat Out as "a really worthwhile effort", we got his top tips on making it work for Sailability.

1. A combined event can help

It halves the workload, doubles the promotional effort. In the sailing club's promotion it was mentioned as a joint event with Northampton Sailability with accessible sailing available for all, while we also did standalone Sailability posters and were on BBC Radio Northampton.

We had two safety boats out, as did the club, and the meet and greet volunteers on the gate were from both the club and Sailability. It promoted a sense of togetherness and inclusivity. There were a lot of families and the bulk of visitors, from Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, I'd not seen before.

2. Use your network to promote the event

Word of mouth is very powerful, and your members and volunteers
are your most valuable resource. Ours helped us get posters up in
places we wanted to target, such as libraries, community centres, pubs and doctors surgeries. Doctors like us because we get people active!

3. Members taking people sailing makes a difference

We had an incredible 28 members volunteer on the day, including eight of our disabled sailors. They took on different roles, like admin, getting people in lifejackets etc. We found it really worked having disabled members taking people out sailing. It's aspirational. Over seven hours, we had two Drascombe Longboats, seven Hansa, two Bahias and a Martin 16 taking people out, plus the Northampton SC boats too.

4. Use it to recruit volunteers, not just participants

Lots of people came to the event for Northampton SC and learned about Sailability. I had a lot of conversations with people on the day that had no idea something like this even existed. I was explaining what I get out of being involved in Sailability, and how they could even learn to sail themselves and take part if they volunteered. Over the year our membership went up. When you took into account membership churn - people leaving compared to people joining - we had a net gain of six people, which was a mix of volunteers and sailors. Push The Boat Out helped raise awareness.

5. Promote the 'fellowship'

Sailability is about much more than sailing. People can feel so isolated nowadays it's nice just to be part of something. Sailability offers that friendship and fellowship people miss, whether a sailor or a volunteer. Tell people about the social side and the things you do, to paint a picture of what can come from being involved.

6. Be upfront about what you can offer

We are fortunate as a large, well-established group we have a hoist, a range of accessible boats and are used to dealing with large groups of people. We had people across the whole spectrum of abilities and ages at our Push The Boat Out, including wheelchair users. But Sailability sites shouldn't be put off running a Push The Boat Out event in fear of lots of people turning up or if you haven't got a hoist. Just be clear in your promotion what accessible opportunities you can offer. Also give people a contact so they can call/email you to discuss if the event would be suitable for them. It might be that arranging a taster for another day would work better?

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