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Two Northern Ireland sailing clubs have been chosen as finalists for the Royal Yachting Association’s Club of the Year 2023 award.

Ballyholme Yacht Club and County Antrim Yacht Club have both been announced as finalists as well as 10 other clubs across the UK.

Recognising the outstanding achievement of sailing clubs, the award highlights the hard work and dedication that goes into running a successful club.

Public voting is now open and closes on Monday 23 January 2023.

Toppers racing out of County Antrim Yacht Club in June 2019 | Credit: Laura RobinsonToppers racing out of County Antrim Yacht Club in June 2019 | Credit: Laura Robinson

The prestigious awards will be presented, and the overall winner announced, during the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show at Farnborough International Exhibition Centre on Saturday 25 February 2023.

RYA Northern Ireland’s chief operating officer Greg Yarnall says: “We are delighted that two of our fantastic sailing clubs have been announced as finalists for this very prestigious award.

“Clubs, and their volunteers, are the backbone of our sport and we are very proud of their hard work, dedication and determination to constantly improve sailing and boating for all.

“We would urge everyone to get behind our clubs and support them when voting opens on 1 December.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland

RYA Northern Ireland is giving sailing and boating clubs across the region an opportunity to come together and share knowledge on how best to grow activity, membership and supporting volunteering.

The Affiliated Clubs Conference, which will take place on Saturday 3 December at Holywood Yacht Club from 9am to 3.30pm, will be an opportunity to connect with other Northern Ireland clubs as well as RYA staff and volunteers.

RYANI’s active clubs coordinator Kate Pounder says: “The Affiliated Clubs Conference is a fantastic place for those within the sailing and boating community to come along to hear information and updates and share knowledge.

“It’s an ideal opportunity for anyone involved in a club or its activities including, flag officers, committee members, staff and volunteers.

“I am looking forward to meeting with clubs at the conference, it will be a great chance to make plans for the year ahead.”

Workshop sessions on the day will cover such topics as what you can do to make volunteers’ experience meaningful, and how to secure the funding you need for your club.

There will also be extra workshops running online (7.30pm-8.30pm) during the week commencing Monday 5 December. These include:

  • Monday 5 - What are the needs and motivations of your club members and how can you provide an experience that’s right for them?
  • Tuesday 6 - What can you do to make your volunteers experience meaningful?
  • Wednesday 7 - How can the RYA’s new Club Management Compliance Toolkit help you manage your club?
  • Thursday 8 - How to secure the funding you need for your club?
  • Friday 9 - How can you make your club welcoming to a wider range of members?
  • Monday 11 - How can you increase yacht racing participation at your club?

For more details on how to take part in this year’s RYANI Affiliated Clubs Conference, see the Eventbrite page HERE.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland

While the boats start coming out of the water, RYANI says its office is getting into a higher gear with autumn and winter programmes, designed to help planning and preparation for the next season.

Following the recent keelboat and sailability forums, the next major learning and networking opportunity will be the Affiliated Clubs Conference on Saturday 3 December at Hollywood Yacht Club (booking open now) which has the theme: ‘Understand your current and future members to grow activity, membership and volunteering.’

RYANI is also restarting the Open Training programme, which will have events for junior classes, but will not be restricted to that, and suggestions for venues and new ideas are welcome.

Other important dates for the Northern Ireland sailing diary in 2023 include the RYANI Cruising Conference on Saturday 28 January, a two-day course on the role of Regional Race Officer at Ballyholme Yacht Club on the weekend of 4-5 March (details to follow), the Ireland on the Water Expo at the Eikon Centre in Lisburn that same weekend, and an OnBoard Development Day provisionally scheduled for Saturday 11 March at South Lakes Watersports Centre in Craigavon.

For much more see RYANI’s November development update HERE.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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Three sailing and boating clubs in Northern Ireland have been benefitting from a whole range of new resources after their clubs were accepted on the Royal Yachting Association’s OnBoard programme.

Strangford Lough Yacht Club, East Antrim Boat Club and Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club all joined the programme at the beginning of 2022 sailing season.

OnBoard is a grassroots programme which seeks to make sailing and windsurfing easier to access for 8–18-year-olds. Launched in 2005, the programme has helped introduce nearly a million young people across the UK to sailing and windsurfing.

Talking about the benefits of the programme so far, Jack Kennedy, training captain at Strangford Lough YC says: “The OnBoard programme has meant that we are able to deliver more structured training as part of our Sunday Sailing school, which now acts as the perfect stepping stone to our RYA Youth Sailing courses.

“With over 80 children signed up to our Sunday Sailing school, it’s fantastic to be able to introduce so many new people to the sport of sailing.”

Kevin Baird from Royal North of Ireland YC says: “The OnBoard resources have really helped us structure our children’s sailing activities. It's got us off to a great start after two very disrupted years and given us a great foundation to build on for 2023 as numbers build up again.”

Debbie Hanna, who sits on the training committee at East Antrim Boat Club, says: “We have had a great summer welcoming new sailors to our Onboard Bright Night sessions which has been great for the club, our instructors and volunteers to be so active after the last few years.”

Over the summer RYA Northern Ireland grew its OnBoard fleet and welcomed Carrickfergus Sailing Club and Strangford Sailing Club to OnBoard. The organisation is looking forward to seeing the clubs progress with the programme. 

RYA OnBoard operations officer Hannah Cockle said: “It’s great to welcome the clubs to the OnBoard programme. Getting out on the water has a huge amount of benefits which go way beyond just learning a new skill. We look forward to working with them and the local community in the future.”

RYANI OnBoard venues are as follows:

  • Ballyholme Yacht Club
  • Carrickfergus Sailing Club
  • Donaghadee Sailing Club
  • East Antrim Boat Club
  • Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club
  • South Lake Sailing Club in Craigavon
  • Strangford Lough Yacht Club
  • Strangford Sailing Club
  • WaveRides in Enniskillen

If you would like to know more about how to become an OnBoard venue or how to get involved as a participant on the OnBoard programme, get in touch with [email protected]

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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RYA Northern Ireland’s new chief operating officer Greg Yarnall took up the post earlier this month following his appointment in July.

In a special Q&A with the regional governing body for boating, he tells a bit about himself, his professional experience within sport and his priorities for RYANI going forward.

Could you please tell us a bit about your professional experience to date?

I have worked in the not-for-profit sector my whole life, first working as a regional development officer for Table Tennis England, before moving on to Northamptonshire Sport, Beanstalk Literacy Charity and then back to Table Tennis England, where my last role was development director as part of the senior leadership team.
I have gained experience across many different sports and areas of sport during this time, from leading a coach and volunteer development team, to developing new participation programmes and leading successful multimillion-pound funding bids. I am looking forward to working with the excellent team at RYANI to help further establish the sport in Northern Ireland.

Do you have any sailing experience and if so, could you please tell us about how you got involved?

I don’t have any direct sailing experience but hopefully my experiences across other sports can help translate into sailing too. Many sports have the same challenges — from getting more people volunteering, to reducing drop off from young athletes, to facility and funding challenges. My aunt is a keen sailor and committee member at her local club in Norfolk, England, so I have been getting lots of tips from her and I will be looking to get out on the water myself too.

What are you looking forward to the most in the role?

I am most looking forward to getting out to meet the clubs across NI and learn more about the work the clubs do. I am keen to meet as many clubs as possible over the next few months so please get in touch if there is an opportunity for me to come across to your club and say hi.

Could you tell us about some of your priorities for RYANI in the year ahead?

The priority will be getting to know the team at RYANI, listening to the staff, board, clubs, instructors, athletes and volunteers to get a better understanding of where we need to be spending our time and where our focuses should be to further develop the sport. 

Following this, the RYANI strategy has been in development now for a considerable time due to delays with COVID and change in staff personnel. Getting this to a point where it is ready to be published will be a key priority as I start to get to know the sport more.
There are also future funding rounds coming up from key stakeholders, such as Sport NI, so I will be looking to connect and build strong working relationships with these partners to better understand where there are crossovers in our organisation’s priorities.

How have you found the move to Northern Ireland?

The move to NI has been a fantastic experience so far; the country is beautiful and so much stunning scenery. 

We haven’t had much time either side of settling our children into school and unpacking to go out and explore to much yet, but we can’t wait to find out more about NI and visit different parts of the country (hopefully taking in some club visits along the way!).

Could you tell us something interesting about yourself that we may not already know?

As a junior I represented the England Schools Table Tennis Team and have coached for the past 20 years as personal coach to several English national champions and internationals.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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Ballyholme Yacht Club near Bangor on Belfast Lough is gearing up for an influx of 120 boats taking part in the RYANI annual Youth Sailing Championships this weekend – Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September.

And by the look of the forecast, the competitors may have to deal patiently with light north easterlies on the first day and very different conditions on the Sunday, when heavy rain and moderate south easterlies are forecast. But that is several days away and may indeed change.

The event is open to sailors under the age of 19 in ILCA 6, ILCA 4, 420, 29er, Topper and RS Feva and Optimist. It turns out the Optimist Ulsters will not run alongside the Youth event.

The warning gun for the first of Saturday’s three races is 1155 and on Sunday 1055.

Among the names to the fore this season from County Antrim YC who are understood to have entered are, in ILCA 6 Daniel Corbett, and in Topper 5.3s Luke Simpson, 4th at the Topper Nationals in Weymouth. Calum Pollard, World Topper Champion at Lake Garda will be a force to be reckoned with. Also, from that club, Jenna Reid will compete in ILCA 6 and in ILCA 4 Holly McConnell.

Topper dinghy racing at BallyholmeTopper dinghy racing at Ballyholme

From the Larne-based East Antrim BC, there will be Zoe Whitford and Charlie Patterson in the 29er and in ILCA Joshua Kane and Matthew McClernon.

In the RS Feva fleet Rory Pollard with crew, Ben Simpson from CAYC will race against at least six from Ballyholme and Niamh Coman and crew Ellie Nolan from Royal North, with helm

One to be watched is the ex-Topper Silver medal winner at the Worlds and runner-up at the Nationals in Weymouth, competing in an ILCA 6 in this event, Bobby Driscoll from Royal North and the host club.

Toppers have been really successful this year and contesting this championship also will be Tom Driscoll in a 5.3 from the host club. It is thought that the Ballyholme member of the Irish ILCA 4 squad Daniel Palmer will make an appearance. And among the girls will be Isabel Nixon who was second Junior Girl at the Lough Erne YC Topper Traveller in July.

There are also prizes for the Top School and Top Club so no doubt Ballyholme YC and Larne Grammar School will be defending their titles. The question is who will fill the female Youth Champion slot with last year’s winner CAYC sailor, Ellen Barbour now too old to compete.

Race Officer is Aidan Pounder.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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Following last weekend’s RS Nationals, Ballyholme Yacht Club hosted the first ever open training session of its kind for RS Fevas with RYA Northern Ireland coaches earlier this week.

Eight RS Fevas took to the water for their first training session with RYANI’s performance programme coach Chris Penny and performance manager Andrew Baker.

There were two sessions on the water in Belfast Lough in Northern Ireland on Monday (22 August) with plenty of onshore boat prep as well as theory.

While some of the youth sailors are experienced sailing with the Feva, it was the first time for others — and for some it was their first time sailing a double hander.

All of the participants made significant improvements in their manoeuvres and crew work as the day progressed.

Unfortunately, poor weather conditions on Tuesday (23 August) meant the sailors couldn’t get on the water but they took part in more theory and some outdoor games and drills.

One pair did venture out for a blast across the bay with a RIB escort and despite a bit of swimming they handled the conditions well.

Baker said: “It was great to see so many enthusiastic juniors keen to sail together and embrace the double handed side of sailing. Both Chris and I genuinely enjoyed both days witnessing what will hopefully be the start of a bright future for the class here in Northern Ireland.”

“Hopefully more clubs can take on the Fevas and add to a growing community. They are a great training boat and with the right sailors onboard, clubs could send teams to events and really build a thriving class.”

He added: “We wish all the sailors good luck this weekend at the RS Feva Northern Championships as they race in conjunction with the larger RS event at Ballyholme Yacht Club.

“We also hope to see a good turnout for the class at our annual RYANI Youth Championships which will take place on 10 and 11 September.”

Published in RS Sailing

With a surge of people taking to the water this summer, there has been an increase in demand for courses at sailing clubs right across Northern Ireland.

Now seven of these clubs will receive development support and guidance through RYA Northern Ireland’s Active Clubs programme to help deliver activity for both members and non-members.

RYANI’s Active Clubs coordinator Lisa McCaffrey explains: “In 2020, we saw the impact of COVID when we got the date back from the RYA Membership Census, an annual survey completed by Affiliated clubs. We saw there was a 5% drop from the previous year; this wasn’t a shock as there was no activity at the clubs.

“With restrictions easing in 2021, lots of people were attracted to the sport and many members returned. We saw a 4% increase in members to 9,370.

“Many clubs worked hard to adapt to new arrangements and were creative in developing interesting and engaging activities for members and new participants and this has paid off.

“At RYA Northern Ireland we recognise this hard work and dedication and we really appreciate our clubs going the extra mile to promote the sport.

“We are now delighted to announce that we will be offering extra support to seven clubs and we look forward to ensuring that they continue to attract members and provide a fantastic experience for their existing members.”

Lisa adds: “The development of programmes like the Active Clubs programme highlights the importance of clubs completing the membership census each year.

“This census provides an insights into all NI clubs, as well as clubs all over the UK. This data is reported to our funders Sport NI and allows us to continue supporting clubs with relevant and useful programmes.

“Our clubs already do so much in terms of activity and this programme provides a bit of support through funding, staff time and attendance at events and promotion. It is great to be able to get back out to clubs and support our volunteers, chat with participants with the goal of retaining members.”

The clubs that have been awarded Active Clubs funding (with relevant projects in parentheses) are:

To find out more about these programmes and for information on how to get in the Active Clubs programme, contact [email protected]

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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RYA Northern Ireland has announced the appointment of Greg Yarnall as its new chief operating officer.

Currently development director with Table Tennis England, he will join the RYANI in September 2022. He succeeds Richard Honeyford, who took up a new post as executive manager of the NI Sports Forum earlier this summer.

Yarnall has significant experience in the sport, recreation and charity sectors, working as part of the senior leadership team with Table Tennis England since 2016, having previously worked in management positions for Beanstalk Charity and Northamptonshire Sport.

He has also been an active coach and volunteer across a wide range of sports for the past 20 years.

“It is an honour to take on the chief operating officer role for RYANI and I would like to thank the board of RYANI for giving me this opportunity,” Yarnall said.

“The sports sector has been through some challenging times over the past couple of years and I am excited to start working with the team of staff, the board and the clubs, volunteers, centres and partners across Northern Ireland, to continue and grow the work of RYANI.

Susan McKnight, chair of RYANI said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Richard Honeyford for his hard work as former chief operating officer and we wish him well in his new role. I would also like to thank Gayle Logan for her work as interim chief operating officer and leading the team over these few months until our new COO starts in September.

“I am pleased to extend a warm welcome Greg Yarnall to the RYANI team. We are delighted that Greg has accepted the post as chief operating officer and I am confident that his appointment and extensive experience will be a fantastic asset to our sport.

“This is an exciting time for sailing and boating and I am looking forward to seeing the team continue their dedicated work under Greg’s leadership.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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RYA Northern Ireland has announced this year’s Women on Water Festival, which is set to be an action-packed day at Donaghadee Sailing Club.

This event, which will take place on Saturday 23 July, will be the third festival to run since 2019.

The Women on Water programme in Northern Ireland has grown from strength to strength in recent years and the festival offers both experienced sailors and those who have never even stepped on a boat to come together to try some water activities, have fun and meet new people.

RYANI’s active clubs coordinator Lisa McCaffrey says: “We are delighted to be able to run the Women and Water Festival at Donaghadee Sailing Club this year. It’s always such a fun-filled day and the Festival really helps to support and grow female participation in boating.

“Last year the key motivator for coming along was to have some fun and everyone who attended certainly did that! We had participants from right across Northern Ireland attending Carrickfergus Sailing Club and some of our participants are now continuing on with their boating journey at their local club.

“It’s also a great opportunity for participants to develop skills and water awareness, as well as improving their health and wellbeing.”

There will be an opportunity to take part in dinghy sailing, keelboat sailing, powerboating, paddle boarding and snorkelling.

Spaces are limited so anyone interested is advised to book early. Participants do not need to have any sailing experience — just the ambition to try something new and meet some fantastic people.

To find out more about the festival, contact [email protected]

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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