Thornton Steward Sailing Club in North Yorkshire is on course to inspire the next generation after gaining RYA OnBoard accreditation for its work with children and young people.
OnBoard is the RYA's national grassroots scheme giving anyone aged 8-18 the chance to discover sailing and windsurfing through low cost opportunities for schools, youth groups and families.
John Pilgrim, Senior Instructor at Thornton Steward SC, said: "We'd like as many children as possible to have the chance to get on the water, and with OnBoard accreditation people can see that we're linked to the national body and that it's about more than just sailing. Young people benefit from all the added life skills that come with it like self-esteem and teamwork, communication and determination.
"We've had one child who really struggled with water confidence and others that wouldn't normally mix, and they've really come out of themselves, and once they know enough we encourage them to share their skills. It builds confidence and cooperation, and they're not stuck in front of a screen, they're in the fresh air.
"Our sessions are run by fully qualified instructors and once they let go of the boat, it's perhaps the first time in their life they have true independence. It's also a level playing field for boys and girls, all ages and sizes, because it's not just about physical ability, it's about your knowledge of how to make a boat go well."
The club has developed from offering just a handful of sessions for children each year to now having two regular OnBoard schools and a full junior club programme.
Pupils from St Nicholas CE Primary School in West Tanfield spent a day at Thornton Steward SC in July to celebrate the end of their academic year, while Carmel College in Darlington and Aysgarth School in Bedale will be returning to the club for weekly sessions this summer following a successful programme of sailing last year.
Carmel College Principal Mike Shorten said: "At Carmel College we are very excited about the OnBoard announcement and hope it will help in encouraging more students to get on the water and benefit from learning to sail."
Teachers are invited to get on the water alongside their pupils so they can learn to sail as well and perhaps be inspired to become instructors to help make the programme self-sustaining.
Thornton Steward's weekend Junior Club meanwhile will run every Sunday from the end of April to September. Children don't need to have taken a course and the first session is free for any from the local community who'd like to see if sailing is for them before joining. Among the regulars are children from Catterick Garrison, which shares the water with the club. Junior members can book online along with a note about what they'd like to learn next, be it racing or spinnaker work, or for older ones, working towards becoming an instructor.
Thornton Steward SC is a recognised RYA Training Centre and is now one of 24 sailing clubs and watersports centres across the North East region to have gained OnBoard status. Doe Park Water Activities Centre, Bradford Council's specialist outdoor education centre, also recently gained RYA OnBoard accreditation.
Hannah Cockle, OnBoard Operations Officer, said: “Getting out on the water has a huge amount of benefits, no matter what your age, background or ability. We look forward to working with Thornton Steward SC and Doe Park Water Activities Centre and their local communities to get as many people as possible enjoying our great sport.”
Since 2005, OnBoard has helped to introduce nearly 900,000 young people across the country to sailing and windsurfing. If your club would like to find out more about OnBoard accreditation, or if you would like to find the nearest OnBoard club for your children or for a youth group or school, visit: www.rya.org.uk/onboard