Itchenor youngsters join festival of fun on the water

Onboarders enjoy the thrills on the water / Picture by Paul Wyeth - RYA
Onboarders enjoy the thrills on the water / Picture by Paul Wyeth - RYA

Young OnBoarders from Itchenor Sailing Club were among those taking part in a regional end-of-season bonanza of junior sailing.

Some 60 kids under the age of 13 went to Weymouth to take part in the OnBoard Fun Fleet activities at the British Youth Sailing (BYS) Regional Junior Championships.

It took place at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy and was open to all youngsters in the RYA’s southern and south west regions who had already attained RYA Stage 1 or above in sailing.

The junior sailors signed up from clubs including Hamble River SC, Hill Head SC, Itchenor SC, Portchester SC, Royal Southern SC, Upper Thames SC, Royal Southern YC and Warsash SC.

While part of the BYS Championships programme was for racing events the OnBoard Fun Fleet was exclusively about getting kids who are relatively new to sailing to have fun with their friends through a full action day or two with games on the water.

Saturday welcomed 55 participants while 35, including several there for a second day, came on the Sunday. The event was a great social get-together for the kids to see what it was like to be part of a team.

The programme of activities was a great chance for the young sailors to learn the latest tips. They even got to meet some of Britain’s top sailors, the British Sailing Team members, and to hear first-hand how they got involved in sailing and what it has done for them.

The weekend brought a mixture of conditions on the water with Saturday’s light breeze and amazing sunshine and Sunday’s more challenging colder and windier conditions.

During each day the fleet was split into two groups dependent on ability. They played an assortment of ‘games with aims’ including paddle power and ‘sailing rugby’. At the end of each day the groups took part in some fun races.

Parents and volunteers from some of the visiting clubs all pitched in to help the day go smoothly, assisting the team from the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre (ASWC) in Weymouth who coordinated the activities.

James Parker-Mowbray, senior instructor at the ASWC, said: “Every sailor came off the water with a massive smile, having made new some new friends and learnt something new.”

Hannah Cockle, the RYA’s OnBoard operations officer, said: “The kids absolutely loved it! Most of them came back the second day, even if they hadn’t originally signed up.” She added “For many of the young sailors this was their first experience of travelling to an event and sailing at a different location.

They also got to try an RS Zest dinghy which they might not have sailed in before. All we were doing was having fun and playing games and I’m sure this will inspire them to carry on loving sailing.”

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“Running the fun event alongside the BYS Championships gave the fun fleet a great chance to watch the more experienced sailors on the race course and to become inspired to progress to the next level.

“The weekend went really smoothly. We played so many different games which allowed the young sailors to improve their skills without even realising it.”

Duncan West, the RYA’s High Performance Manager for the south and south west regions, said “It was fantastic to see so many young sailors from so many of the sailing clubs within the region come together to have fun, and to be part of the BYS Regional Junior Championships.”

Run by the RYA, OnBoard is a grass roots programme which introduces sailing and windsurfing to young people aged 8 to 18, through schools, youth groups and training centres.

Over a ten-year period OnBoard has introduced more than 500,000 children to sailing and windsurfing in the UK, converting over ten per cent of them into regular participants.