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HRH Princess Royal, Sir Ben Ainslie applaud resilience of clubs at RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference

by Susie NationGrainger, RYA 24 Nov 2020 07:04 GMT 21 November 2020
Presenters - RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference © RYA

HRH The Princess Royal and Sir Ben Ainslie were amongst the key speakers who shared messages of support and applauded the resilience of sailing clubs across the UK at the RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference, this Saturday (21 November 2020).

More than 1,000 delegates from 400 sailing clubs as far afield as Cornwall and Bermuda joined the thought-provoking virtual event hosted by Shirley Robertson, to look back on the challenges of 2020 and explore the opportunities that lie ahead.

One of the highlights of the day was a message from the RYA President, HRH The Princess Royal, who thanked volunteers for the innovative ways that they have adapted following lockdown.

"Volunteers have continued to support their clubs, classes and committees, helping their communities return to boating and giving people the confidence to enjoy being on and off the water as safely as possible," said the RYA President, HRH The Princess Royal.

Earlier in the day, Sir Ben Ainslie shared some of his experiences responding to the challenges that INEOS Team UK faced during the pandemic. In a recorded interview, he highlighted the importance of his home club, the impact of volunteers on the sport and how it felt for him to be back on the water following lockdown.

Sir Ben explained: "Getting out on the water after lockdown was a really refreshing moment. Just that sensation of the water rippling under the hull of the boat as I left the pontoon and that sense of freedom that we all get when we are out on the water. It had been about three months since I'd been on the water previously and I realised how much I'd missed it and what a wonderful sport we're all involved in."

Sport England Board Member and Strategist Chris Grant treated delegates to an inspirational live talk 'I can see clearly now' which discussed the opportunities to progress diversity within the sport. He also shared his practical wisdom on how clubs can make the right decisions and implement change.

RYA Chairman Chris Preston, RYA CEO Sarah Treseder, and RYA Northern Ireland Chief Operating Officer, Richard Honeyford also shared their thoughts on the impact the global pandemic has had on the sport and highlighted the opportunities and support available for clubs as they look to welcome participants back.

"We recognise just how challenging 2020 has been for everyone involved in running clubs throughout the UK, and I'd like to say a most sincere thank-you to all those who have gone to such extraordinary lengths to keep our clubs afloat" said Sarah Treseder.

"I hope you will make the most of the RYA support available and continue to diversify and adapt your offer to these fast-changing times. Above all, finding new ways to broaden the diversity of our collective membership, and to keep those who joined the boating community during 2020 engaged over the months to come. We are all looking forward to the opportunities 2021 will bring, from the inspiration of the Tokyo Olympic Games to the chance to get serious about Sustainability. Until then stay positive and stay safe."

RYA Regional Development Manager Gareth Brookes concluded: "It's been a very tough time for clubs, but with events like these, it really feels like the sailing community has got together and it's been great to be a part of that. We've got an awful lot to plan for in 2021 and beyond."

Despite the event being held virtually, delegates were able to explore the online expo area with a choice of stands to visit including RYA Training and Legal and Racing Services.

The event is followed by a series of Club Development webinars. Topics include recruiting and managing volunteers, environmental sustainability, reducing membership churn, engaging local communities, delivering a great experience to a wider audience, and promoting clubs to potential new members.

Booking is now open for the webinars. Book your slot or register to watch the conference back on video here.

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