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Making a difference: Solva's new changing rooms complete thanks to Sunsail's Funding the Future

by Mark Jardine 16 Jan 12:00 GMT
Solva Sailing Club's new changing rooms are officially opened © Helen Hughes

Solva Sailing Club, based in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, were the first winner of Sunsail's Funding the Future Award and recently opened their new changing room facilities which were made possible by the prize.

We spoke to Helen Hughes, Secretary at Solva Sailing Club, to find out how the build went and what the new facilities mean for the club.

From receiving the award to opening the new changing rooms has been quite a process for the club and its members, with Piers Beckett and Jimmy Young doing most of the work in their own time, building the structure within the old stone building. After this a professional was hired to build some external stairs.

"It was quite a job and was the only space we could get on the quay," said Helen. "Of course something on the ground floor would have been ideal but it was the only space available and it took a long time with many giving up their own time to do the work. The money was used to buy the materials."

During the early summer some of the building work had to be put on hold as Helen explains, "We couldn't put the door in as, just as we got to the point where it should have been fitted, a pair of swallows started nesting within the architrave outside. They weren't particularly bothered by the noise going on elsewhere, but we didn't dare open the door or put the stairs up while they were there. I'm pleased to say they successfully fledged and off they went and they're probably in sunny South Africa by now!"

The facilities are going to make a huge difference to the club, both in what they can provide and what needs to be done at the club: "Beforehand people would change inside the boatshed or outside on the quay, and having the changing room facilities means people who might have otherwise been shy of joining in, can now do so. It's a whole new ball-game in what we can do.

"I really hope it'll encourage more adults to sail from the club. We've had a couple of very successful experiments with adult taster sessions in 2017, as the club has mainly been about getting youngsters out on the water thus far, and I'm hoping that more will be encouraged to come along now that they don't have to get changed in the back of their car or shivering on the quay!"

This really does reinforce the idea that sailing is for life and that anyone of any age can enjoy it, and it's great to see a small club fully embracing the opportunity here.

The club held an informal opening for the new changing rooms on the 1st December, and the hope is to really get more of the local community engaged and out on the water as Helen says, "With all the kids out on the water, we know that the parents really want to have a go too. Hopefully now we'll get them as well and build a real family spirit here."

Part of the prize from Sunsail was having Dee Caffari talk to the locals at Solva, which is an event that went down in the village's history: "People are still talking about it as she's such an impressive speaker. It was marvellous and many people who'd seen various other celebrities speak said Dee was amongst the best that they'd ever seen. She impressed greatly, as did the Opihr Gin!"

We look forward to hearing more about how Solva Sailing Club continues to grow and gets more people out on the water.