1) 'Adaptability' will be big in 2019

RYA CEO, Sarah Treseder, owned the room as she discussed the importance of getting clubs to talk about 'adaptability' in her keynote speech.

Centred around the findings of British Marine's Future Customers Project, she said adaptability wasn't about throwing the baby out with the bathwater and praised the work that has created such strong, vibrant clubs in the region. But Sarah highlighted how our customers of the future are going to want something different to the traditional sailing club offer and how clubs will need to be ready to adapt to those changing demands.

That could be sailing on demand, more flexible courses, the ability to opt-out of duties, more tailored activities to suit them, lots of different things. As the club case studies highlighted, clubs who have started diversifying their offers are enjoying some positive results, especially when they are integrating activities the whole family can do at the same time.

Glossop's Stand Up Paddleboarding case study, compellingly delivered by Commodore and Training Principal, Viki Packman, revealed that although they introduced SUP'ing as a pathway activity into sailing and windsurfing, it's become a cornerstone activity in its own right. Members do transition across activities, but more importantly, whole families are at the club and on the water in some capacity at the same time.

These two two popular webinars - The Future of Dinghy Sailing and Exploring 'Pay on Demand' - have also provided some food for thought and it was clear there are now a lot of clubs talking about what they could do differently. If you are piloting an interesting diversification / adaptability project, we would love to hear about it so please email gareth.brookes@rya.org.uk 

2. We're making inroads with females

The Club Membership Census has highlighted how underrepresented females are in our clubs in recent years. However, this year's census and Conference feedback suggests we're beginning to at least make some progress as female club membership in the region has increased in the past 12 months.

There is a clear correlation between clubs who have run Women on the Water projects and seen a female membership increase so a key Conference message was if you're not already doing a project like this we can support you in getting one running. We know any targeted activities and projects, supported by the right communications, can impact membership, and females are no different.

There is still a fair amount to do to reduce the disparity in male and female club member numbers but the Conference showed there is an appetite to build on this encouraging upward trend.

3. More people are leaving clubs than joining

'Membership churn' has increased in the region again. We know there are some really innovative projects going on to attract new people into clubs, but are we doing enough to keep members satisfied once they are signed up?

One of the most popular Conference workshops reflected on the results of the Club Member Satisfaction Survey published last month and our Regional Development Officer, Gareth Brookes, talked in detail about some of the things clubs could consider in his Gareth's Gossip - November 2018 blog.

The purpose of the survey is to help clubs understand people's motivations for being a member, which is integral to giving people what they want to stay sailing, and we cannot urge you enough to get involved in the 2019 survey. Register your interest here now - Expression of Interest for the Club Members' Satisfaction Survey 2019

4. Instructors remain a challenge 

So many clubs had the same story at the Conference, that they haven't go enough instructors for the activities they would like to do. This anecdotal evidence is backed up by the numbers, which show since 2016, the number of small boat instructors (dinghy, windsurfing and powerboating) have fallen 9% in the Midlands. At the Conference, we communicated how we're working to help clubs address this drop.

The RYA's new Discover Instructing and Coaching Programme, driven by RYA Coaching Development Manager, David Mellor, will launch soon to deliver workshops to engage sailors who might be interested in becoming an instructor or race coach, but who aren't sure yet and just want to learn more.

We've also trained four more Midlands Powerboat Trainers, who will be active in 2019 to support clubs in running more powerboat instructor courses, will be trying to run more local and affordable entry level instructor courses for dinghy and windsurfing and are working to improve communication about courses.

5. OnBoard works

Almost 7,500 new young people were introduced to sailing in the Midlands through OnBoard from April this year. That's a thousand kids a month getting on the water who probably wouldn't have done otherwise. We've seen strong growth in junior membership in the region over the past year and that absolutely correlates to the success of OnBoard. 

Talking to clubs at the Conference, there was a clear split between those who were OnBoard and making the most of the available resources, and those clubs who weren't yet OnBoard, who in many cases weren't even aware of what resources were available. In addition, there are still clubs who aren't familiar with the new OnBoard focus on character strengths and the instructor / session cards available to demonstrate the value of OnBoard to schools and parents.

Between January and April a number of free fun OnBoard Instructor Development Days will be run in the Midlands to help our clubs get even more out of the resources. The days can be at clubs or hubs of local clubs, which can be very powerful for ideas sharing. They will recognise the work volunteer instructors have put into making OnBoard a success while inspiring them with new ideas to keep them energised and to help make their lives easier. If you would like to host a day email gareth.brookes@rya.org.uk