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"I get satisfaction helping sailors appreciate the rules"

Steve Watson How Steve Watson's passion for rules and race management can help your club

In the latest of a short series profiling the new RYA Midlands Regional Volunteer team, we introduce Midland SC's Steve Watson, part of the region's racing rules and race management advisory team and team racing enthusiast. Steve explains how they are working to help you run better racing.

What's your own sailing story? 

I was 11 at boarding school. One Saturday, it was a choice between sweeping leaves and helping a sixth former sail on the River Thames. There was no choice! I've been a member at Midland SC since 1988, including as Commodore, but have travelled a lot so held memberships at many clubs both in the UK and South Africa. 

I was privileged to be Class Chairman of the Merlins, having been involved since 1988 and am currently involved with Cadets and Solos as Class judge. I've also enjoyed sailing Mirrors, Fireballs, Enterprises, Dolphins, Hobie 16s over the years.

What's your role on the Regional Volunteer Team?

I'm a Regional Rules Advisor, and with the team's other rules advisors and race management experts, we provide education and support to clubs with respect to the racing rules and associated documents. 

What does this mean in practice for our clubs?

We are locally available to discuss rules questions along with central RYA support. Primarily, we're available to go to clubs to present informative events on implementing the rules, tactics to optimise the rules and running of effective racing. Events are often evening based as part of a club’s social programme and are subsidised by the RYA. 

This is important as it all aligns with the RYA Charter: ‘to provide fair, enjoyable and safe sailing'. Fair rules adherence is important as we're a self policing, Corinthian sport. Corinthian is the spirit to take a penalty even when no-one is watching! Knowing people aren't following the rules can quickly make racing not enjoyable and people become demotivated and stop. Good quality racing is a key part of a club remaining vibrant.

Why did you want to get involved in the Regional Volunteer Team? 

I was aware of the former RYA West Midlands committee but didn't really know what they did, even when I was Midland SC Commodore. I was invited along to a meeting at a time I was progressing my qualifications as RYA judge, umpire and race officer. It seemed I could help in the South Midlands to supplement the excellent work of other advisors based many miles away. It gives me satisfaction to help sailors appreciate the sailing rules in a positive, fun way rather than as a necessary restriction.

You're also very passionate about team racing?

I fell into team race umpiring about six years ago. It proved mentally taxing, stimulating and you get a lot of close action in a weekend’s event, maybe more than 160 short races. Applying the rules and tactics is at another level and probably the best way of appreciating the opportunities. In many ways it's the management of conflict in a winning way.

The Birmingham University sailing club are again promoting the 'Old Joe' - named after the uni clock tower - event at South Staffs SC in mid June for the second year with RYA Midlands is a key supporter. Last year's event was great and massively competitive. Our rusty Watson team, consisting of three team race champions, team race coach and inland champions, were trounced but we enjoyed our attempt! Read all about last year's event - Old Joe Puts Team Racing In Focus 

What do you think are the biggest opportunities and challenges for Midlands clubs in the short to medium term?

The perennial question is the attraction and sustenance of participants in our sport. Clubs do many things well but much fewer manage to get integrated continuity between the original toe-dipping venture to longer term regular commitment. The opportunities are there to utilise the readily available RYA resources, the challenges are to exploit them and relentlessly engage the willing volunteers at clubs. 

I believe the new RVT can be more effective than the former committee system as the key contribution will be to facilitate the work of the local RYA staff, so Gareth Brookes (RDO) and Chris Blackburn (HPM) and their teams. Collectively, we would like to add some field wisdom and some technical help.


Get in touch with your Midlands Regional Race Management Coordinators and Regional Rules Advisers here.

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