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Sunsail 2017 Mar Greece 728

All-change for Solva Sailing Club thanks to Sunsail's 'Funding the Future'

by Mark Jardine on 14 Mar 14 March 2017
Kids sailing at Solva Sailing Club © SSC

Solva Sailing Club is a tiny club which aims to encourage more people, particularly youngsters, to take up sailing. They are based in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, surrounded by some of the most beautiful and unspoilt coastal waters in the UK.

The club offers taster sessions for local schoolchildren, and follow-up development for keen youngsters who are looking to get into sailing. Until now the lack of changing facilities and storage lockers has held the club back.

Helen Hughes put in an application for Sunsail's innovative 'Funding the Future' competition, aimed at helping clubs increase participation in sailing, and at the London Boat Show it was announced that Solva Sailing Club had won! The club is using the £5,000 award to create the new changing facilities.

Despite being a very small club in a village with a total population of just 855, Solva has produced regular members of the Welsh and GB Topper and Laser Squads and a number of champion sailors. Currently one sailor is in the full GBR Laser squad and another is coaching promising young sailors at a national level.

We spoke to Piers Beckett, Vice-Chairman of Solva Sailing Club about what the award meant to the club:

"We take complete beginners out sailing from the local primary schools and hold regular taster sessions at the club in the six Optimist dinghies, three Toppers and a Wayfarer that we have. We've found that the kids start in Opis, then progress to Toppers where some get involved in the local youth racing circuit, and from there they move onto the RYA Cymru-Wales training where they progress as far as they want to go in the sport. We don't push people to race and we don't hold regular races, but what we do is lend boats and provide support for any children who want to move on in their sailing.

"We now have a nucleus of parents who've gone through the process and they are now providing the support for the next generation of sailors, which makes a very big difference.

"We try to keep things very simple and don't have many overheads as a club, which keeps membership cheap. We're much more interested in members who will come and help out at the club.

"Solva Boatowners' Association have been extremely accommodating to us, and the changing rooms that we are creating are displacing some of their members' lockers. They've been very supportive of the idea."

As part of the Funding the Future prize, Round the World Yachtswoman and Sunsail Ambassador Dee Caffari will be giving a talk at the club and Piers told us what interest this has generated:

"It's been quite phenomenal. We have 90 people already signed up to come and I think it's going to be quite a large local event. We have one or two local sailors who cruise quite seriously and they've generated a lot of interest in the talk. It's a very active village and if something's going on they want to know about it and come along and I think it'll make quite a big difference."

Solva Sailing Club is helping bring up the next generation of sailors, coaches and volunteers who will continue bringing people into the sport. Clubs like this, and the volunteers who run them, truly are the life-blood of our sport.

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