OnBoard is the RYA’s grassroots sailing programme right?

Wrong! Well, sort of wrong…

The RYA explain why:

OnBoard is as much about windsurfing as it is dinghies, and as the programme approaches its 10th anniversary year in 2015, a large number of youngsters continue to discover windsurfing through OnBoard’s nationwide network of clubs and centres.

In its first decade, Britain’s youngsters have enjoyed over 480,000 first windsurfing and sailing experiences through OnBoard with over 39,000 youngsters becoming regulars. The aim is to have introduced half a million youngsters by next year and to retain 10% of these youngsters in the sport.

“I love windsurfing, I love all of it. The speed is the best bit. When I’m on the water it makes me feel happy and good. I enjoy making new friends.

Get On Board!

[part title="Getting OnBoard"]

Getting OnBoard

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The Osprey Training Centre (OTC) Windsurfing School, based at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, got its official OnBoard status in 2012. OTC founder, Tris Best, explains why they were so keen to get OnBoard.

“Windsurfing is very different to sailing. In windsurfing the challenge is more about directly pitting yourself against the elements or yourself. Racing is a path windsurfers can follow if they want, but most of the kids we were teaching weren’t super interested in racing, they just enjoyed blasting around. OnBoard was a good fit.

“We just want kids to have fun windsurfing, so we teach wave and freestyle too, and the kids have opportunities to try whatever kit they want from complete beginner boards to short boards. We showcase how colourful, bright and appealing it is."

[part title="Making inroads"]

Making inroads

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The OTC currently works with eight local schools in Weymouth and Portland, with another 12 from further afield that bring regular visitors to the site.

So far the OTC has introduced around 110 children to windsurfing – that’s with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games intermittently halting operations over that summer – and Tris says their major focus for this year is targeting primary schools. He highlights the importance of finding the right person in a school to champion OnBoard to make sure the programme is embraced by staff and pupils.

[part title="Fun afloat"]

Fun afloat

“Portland Harbour is one of the best spots in Europe for windsurfing, but because of its association with Olympic racing the perception is it’s an elitist venue, when nothing could be further from the truth," Tris continues. “It’s an amazing spot to teach and learn because it’s so flat. The kids can get out even in breezy conditions and love it."

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Tris believes youngsters can achieve a sense of achievement feel very quickly from windsurfing which gets them hooked, and by the end of their first session they should have gained confidence in balance, wind awareness and how the mechanisms of a board works.

It is the aim to have every youngster sailing in a straight line by the end of that lesson, even if it’s a five-year-old primary school pupil on a 1.5 sail.

Tris says typically once youngsters have got the skills-set to have gained their Start or Stage 2 certificates, then most of their up skilling comes through the OnBoard clubs and the personal challenge of getting out in higher winds and giving it a go.

[part title="What’s next?"]

What’s next?

With a year to hit its 10-year target of 50,000 regulars, OnBoard clubs and centres, with the help of their RYA Sailing Development Officers, will be working harder than ever to encourage regular participation in junior windsurfing and sailing nationwide.

But that target isn’t a final destination, as Cat Ferguson, RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, explains: “OnBoard isn’t going to stop once the target is reached.

“OnBoard works, and we would like to give more clubs the opportunity to be part of OnBoard, and will be supporting their efforts to bring more youngsters into the scheme. There’s no doubt that OnBoard will go much further in future years."

2013 marked the first in a new five-year official charity partnership between OnBoard and the John Merricks Sailing Trust (JMST) to donate boards and boats to selected OnBoarders at RYA Zone and Home Countries Championships.

Selected sailors have exclusive use of a quality board or dinghy for two years, after which that kit will be returned to the sailor’s original OnBoard club so other young OnBoard sailors can continue to benefit.

Rotherham lad Charlie Bennett, 8, received the only BIC Techno board in this first round. He will use it to hone his skills, including at OnBoard sessions at Pugney’s Country Park, Wakefield, in a bid to follow in the footsteps of windsurfing siblings, including brother Joe, part of the British Sailing Team RS:X Podium Potential Squad.

Why Charlie loves windsurfing...

Charlie said:

“I love windsurfing, I love all of it. The speed is the best bit. When I’m on the water it makes me feel happy and good. I enjoy making new friends.

“I want to be in the Olympics one day. I’d like to be in the Zone Squad like Joe and my sister, Chloe, were when they were younger, then go to the Junior, Youth and finally Olympic squad like Joe is.

“Joe is my idol and inspires me to achieve in windsurfing. I want to be a coach too like Chloe is. She inspires me to learn more. I like learning new things and want to learn more.

“I want to go to summer camp at Pugney’s again next year because I learnt lots there. I don't like it if I have to miss training at weekends. It makes me sad. Thank you dad, mum, Chloe and Joe for helping me with my windsurfing."

For more information about how to get involved in windsurfing visit the RYA’s website www.rya.org.uk or the OnBoard website www.ruob.co.uk

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