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Beating the Lockdown Blues at Ripon Sailing Club

by RYA North East 1 May 13:07 BST
Ripon is now running its club racing via Virtual Regatta © Gail Jackson

Ripon Sailing Club in North Yorkshire is maintaining its thriving community spirit during the Coronavirus pandemic after moving a whole variety of its regular activities online.

From e-Sailing and fitness to quizzes and coaching, the club is offering members a range of opportunities to stay in touch and have fun despite lockdown preventing them from meeting at the club or being able to get on the water.

As Commodore Jamie Kerslake explains: "We took the decision fairly early on that we needed to be quite pro-active engaging with members and felt that while they couldn't come to the club, the club had to come to them. It's about offering that sense of community and continuity.

"From the committee's point of view, we were thinking about retention and keeping members engaged, and about keeping the club at the forefront of what people were thinking about.

"We were also taking into account the demographic of our membership. A lot of them were self-isolating and so maintaining social interaction was really important for them."

Packed schedule

When it became clear that clubs would be unable to stay open, Ripon SC took up the offer of a free VIP licence for Virtual Regatta through the RYA and decided to pay a £11.99/month (£14.38 inc VAT) for Zoom, enabling online get-togethers lasting longer than the 40-minute limit available for free.

Zoom adds a social element to the club's Virtual Racing sessions and has been used for committee meetings and updates, coaching and training, fitness circuits and rules discussions - with members aged one through to 80 taking part in the various sessions.

The club has also launched a new weekly e-news - The Answering Pennant - to supplement its usual monthly newsletter and provide a timetable of activities and any Zoom/VR access codes so members can plan the club's activities into their schedule.

WhatsApp groups have been set up for different activity groups to send quick messages while social media is seeing members sharing light-hearted reports and comments.

Ripon's virtual schedule has so far included:

  • Virtual Racing: e-Sailing races on Saturdays and Sundays are well attended while Wednesday and Friday morning racing is aimed at less experienced Virtual Racers with coaching and explanation available on how to get the best out of the programme. VR activities include groups for club racing, RC, youth and junior sailors.

  • Training & coaching: The coaching team is providing regular training via Zoom to cover a whole range of topics, including: shore theory for RYA Stage/Level 1 -3; rules discussions; understanding rig controls; and 'boat tours' which have so far included an Optimist, Topper and a Cadet, with members sharing knowledge about their boats and how to crew them.

  • Kickstarter: The club's race training programme Kickstarter for less experienced sailors of all ages has moved online. The weekly theory sessions usually covered before club racing are now on Zoom for sailors who want to learn to race or would like a refresher.

  • Fitness & Fun: Twice-weekly Zoom Circuits invite members to stay fit and active on Tuesdays and Thursdays and are proving a hit with all ages from children through to older members, while quiz nights are also proving popular.

Ian Smith, club trustee and RC fleet rep, who is among those helping to deliver activities, says: "The club has really come together very well with committee and other members doing a great job to keep the club together whilst in isolation.

"The clubhouse and grounds remain out of bounds to members but we have brought the club together online with our activities so that we will be in a strong position to bring everyone back together at the club as soon as we can."

Benefits

Commodore Jamie Kerslake says the club has seen a number of additional and unexpected benefits from moving its activities online during the Coronavirus pandemic.

As well as enabling the club to develop its communications know-how, the training and coaching elements, driven by Youth & Junior Secretary Fiona Spence, have provided an opportunity to deliver sessions in a relaxed, non-sailing environment: "It has actually been quite refreshing because we're not rushing to get on the water and we've been able to take a little more time to look around some different boats and to discuss the different aspects of sailing and racing."

The club has also made good use of its more experienced youth helms to run some Zoom sessions - including Ellie Clark on Rule 18 and mark roundings and Ollie Kent on startlines - which has seen them step up to the challenge, give back to the club and share the benefits of their squad training.

The training and coaching sessions are not only useful live but will also be valuable for the future; the club's paid-for Zoom package allows them to be recorded and some of the lockdown learning sessions will be edited into training resources for when activities resume at the club.

The strength of the club's committee and community spirit has come to the fore to meet the challenges of Covid-19, with virtual gatherings seeing around 6-12 members doing circuits, groups into the teens for coaching and up to around 30 participants for VR racing.

Jamie says Ripon's new online offer is bringing together all ages and even enabling members to make new friends - older RC members have been having great fun racing the kids on VR!

"We're seeing a good portion of our members and it's brought sections of the club together that wouldn't necessarily engage with each other normally," says Jamie. "It's a social sport at the end of the day and I think we've replicated a good amount of that which is really positive."

Anyone wanting to find out more about how the club is delivering its online activities is welcome to contact Ripon SC for further details by emailing

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