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‘Planning for a successful future’ is the theme of RYA Northern Ireland’s Affiliate Clubs Conference for 2022, taking place online next Saturday 22 January.

Whether your club has been able to capitalise on the staycation trend or is struggling to resume activities, the conference is the event to help you move forwards.

As well as getting the opportunity to reconnect with other clubs across Northern Ireland, get support from RYANI staff and volunteers, and hear the headlines from the region and the latest local opportunities for your club, there will be a practical session to support you with your club development planning.

There is also a programme of club development sessions led by experts that will explore the following areas:

  • How can we recruit and retain more volunteers?
  • What advice is there for the governance and legal challenges our club is facing?

The conference is ideal for anyone involved in managing a club or its activities, be they flag officers, committee members, staff or volunteers.

The RYANI conference will be delivered from 10am to 1pm on Saturday 22 January with additional networking opportunities available from 9am to 9.30am and from 1pm to 1.30pm.

Agenda

09:15–09:30 Networking

09:30–09:45 Welcome, aims and introductions

09:45–10:15 RYANI Update; Youth Forum video

10:15-11:15 Club Development Session with Michelle Gent, RYA Programmes Manager: How can you plan to recruit and retain more volunteers and how can the RYA support your club with this?

11:15–11:30 Break

11:30-11:45 Networking

11:45–11:50 Mel Hide, RYA Director of External Affairs: A brief overview of the department and its activity

11:50–12:50 Club Development Session with Mandy Peters, RYA Legal Manager: What are the governance and legal challenges that your club is facing and how can the RYA support you with these?

12:50–13:15 Additional information, summary, feedback and closing

13:15-13:30 RYA staff available for meetings/further networking

Further development sessions will be online and include:

  • How can we recruit and retain more volunteers? (Monday 17 January)
  • How can we develop or replace our facility? (Monday 24 January)

Book your place at the RYANI Affiliated Clubs Conference on the Eventbrite page HERE. All other club forums and bookings are available through the RYANI Club Development Forums Page.

For further information and questions, please contact the RYANI’s Active Clubs Coordinator, Lisa McCaffrey at +44 07788238083 or [email protected]

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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Carrickfergus sailor Bob Harper has stepped down from his role of RYA Northern Ireland sailability coordinator.

Harper took up the role in 2003 and over the last 18 years he has worked with clubs and centres across Northern Ireland as an advocate for disabled sailing, helping to create and maximise opportunities for sailors, as well as supporting many initiatives and activities.

He helped to establish Belfast Lough Sailability, which has given hundreds of adults and children with any form of disability the opportunity to take up the sport and learn the skill of sailing.

Harper’s dedication was recognised with a prestigious national award in 2010, the RYA Francis Elkin Award.

He is also a keen author and illustrator and has written about his adventures sailing around the world with his wife, Christine.

RYANI’s chief operating officer Richard Honeyford commented: “During his tenure, Bob became well recognised and respected. His enthusiasm and dedication have been a huge asset to our sport and Bob has played a huge role in helping the sailability community grow from strength to strength.

“We now have three dedicated sailability clubs in Northern Ireland and five accredited centres and this is a testament to Bob’s hard work.”

Honeyford added: “Bob led sailability with true commitment and was always approachable and innovative, exploring new opportunities to support sailing.

“On behalf of RYA Northern Ireland, I would like to thank him for the very positive impact he has made on our sport. He will be sorely missed by us all.”

Published in Sailability
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The RYANI has broadly welcomed the news of easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland from 1 April, as announced last week by First Minister Arlene Foster.

The sailing and boating body saidL: “This is very welcome news and follows on from engagement with the Minister of Communities, who has continued to be an advocate for sport and outdoor activity.

“Our understanding is that this will include further easing of restrictions for boating activity, namely around venue access.

“We still await the issuing of the regulations and guidance from the department to understand implications across the boating community in full."

Full guidance is currently pending, but the RYANI has summarised the position as it understands:

  • Updated Regulations are yet to be laid in order to confirm venues etc that may reopen from 1 April.
  • In the absence of the regulations, affiliated boat clubs will be able to reopen outdoor facilities from 1 April. However, there will be stringent protocols required, including very limited numbers.
  • Sailing, windsurfing and powerboating as individual, single household/bubble recreational activity will be permitted from 1 April.
  • Activity with two different households is permitted only where 2m social distancing can be adhered to at all times and with a maximum 10 people.
  • SportNI/Department for Communities will be briefing national governing bodies in coming days of the phases for outdoor sports, including more detailed guidance.
  • The current sub-phases under Step 2 will move from recreational through to training and potentially competition.
  • Once received, RYANI will be working to create guidance for clubs, centres and the wider boating community and we will share this as soon as practically possible.

“Although this announcement is welcome and further details are to follow, our current guidance remains in place, where club and other watersports facilities must remain closed,” the RYANI adds.

“We appreciate this will raise a large number of questions and will work to ensure appropriate guidance is issued at the earliest possible opportunity in order to allow you to make informed decisions.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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The countdown is on for the virtual RYA Northern Ireland Cruising Conference 2021, which will take place online over three separate evenings in the new year.

The conference, which will be hosted via Zoom, will run on Tuesdays 19 and 26 January and Tuesday 2 February.

A jam-packed schedule of speakers and interactive sessions are promised, covering a wide variety of topics ranging from information on environmental affairs to sailing around Ireland and practical help with electronic safety equipment.

Conference delegates will benefit from updates on current RYA work for cruising members as well as interesting and informative key note speakers and workshop discussions.

The current programme kicks off at 7pm on 19 January with Colin Greetham of Ocean Signal discussing EPIRBs and PLBs, and Norman Kean waxing lyrical on sailing around Ireland.

On the 26th, Greetham returns for a talk on AIS, and conference attendees will get updates from the RYA on Brexit, environmental issues and Safetrx.

The final session on 2 February will see Greetham get into electronic distress flares, while Pat Murphy of Howth Yacht Club will talk the adventure that is sailing from Thailand to Egypt.

All three evening sessions are free and places can be booked online via Eventbrite.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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The second club to be celebrated in RYANI’s Recognition 2020 initiative is Strangford Lough Yacht Club, whose volunteers jumped into action to ensure the club was safe and ‘Covid-ready’ for when everyone could get back on the water.

The club was originally due to open its season at the beginning of May, but with coronavirus restrictions in place across Northern Ireland this wasn’t possible.

Instead, the club’s most dedicated volunteers set about getting safety measures in place for whenever they could open.

Some of the first measures SLYC put into place were hand sanitising stations throughout the club and its grounds. In the early stages a slipway booking system was implemented so the club could control how many individuals were in the club grounds at any one time.

Communication with members was key and there was frequent guidance issued by the club.

A craning team spent a lot of time overseeing the craning in of over 30 boats, which meant that by late May and early June many members and their families were able to safely enjoy cruising on Strangford Lough.

In July, restrictions were eased further and sailing training was permitted — a very important part of the club.

Committee members and instructors worked hard to ensure the club was in a position to safely deliver sailing courses, giving younger people (both members and non-members) the opportunity to take part in water activities in a safe environment while developing their sailing skills.

Club racing also commenced in July, with representatives from all classes getting on the water — providing a much needed sense of normality in very uncertain times.

September saw the return of SLYC’s most popular sailing series, the Frostie. Sailors from all across Strangford Lough eagerly travelled to Whiterock to take part in this annual series.

‘Despite the uncertainty that we all found ourselves in, the determination of many individuals was phenomenal and humbling’

With over 40 boats entered, it was one of the largest entries the club had ever seen and with strict safety procedures in place, it was also one of the most successful.

As the Frostie series came to an end, Covid restrictions came back into play. The craning team were once again working round-the-clock and in difficult weather conditions, ensuring that every boat was successfully recovered.

SLYC senior instructor Jack Kennedy said: “As soon as we were aware that Covid was going to affect things at the club, we took action straight away to get measures in place.”

He added: “Looking back at this year, despite constantly changing restrictions, SLYC delivered a very popular sailing event, training, club racing and cruising to its members and visitors. This was as a result of a fantastic team effort from both the Commodore’s Committee and the general membership of the Club.

“Despite the uncertainty that we all found ourselves in, the determination of many individuals was phenomenal and humbling.

“One of the most fantastic things about this sporting activity is the volunteers it has. So many individuals give both their time and expertise and this year it was needed even more.

“At SLYC, we hope that 2021 brings more normality and that we are able to be fully functional again, hosting sailing events, social events, club racing and training.”

RYANI chief operating officer Richard Honeyford said: “Volunteers at SLYC worked extremely hard to ensure that all measures were taken to ensure the club was safe for members to return to the club and the water.

“While it has been a particularly difficult time for everyone in our sailing and boating community, it is both heartwarming and inspiring to see the dedication and innovative ways our volunteers work.

“I commend SLYC for their efforts and wish them luck for the year ahead.”

Last week Foyle Sailability was the first club to be recognised as part of the RYANI’s Recognition 2020 initiative in lieu of its usual Annual Awards.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland

RYANI is encouraging sailing clubs across Northern Ireland to prepare for a joint application to the newly announced Sport NI Sports Sustainability Fund.

Northern Ireland Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín launched the £25 million fund for Governing Bodies and affiliated clubs on Friday 4 December.

The fund is intended to address the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic which has affected the sports sector, helping to minimise financial stress and sustain clubs.

Sport NI requires ‘consolidated’ submissions to be made, which means one submission per recognised sport.

To this end, RYANI is calking for all affiliated clubs to provide the relevant information as specified by Sport NI and within the given timeframes.

Correspondence has been sent to clubs asking those intending to submit an application to complete and return an expression of interest form by this Tuesday 15 December.

RYANI chief operating officer Richard Honeyford said: “We welcome the announcement that the sports sector will be receiving further support.

“We are looking to establish points of contact so we can advise of the process or the administration of this fund.

“Clubs should ensure they read the relevant Sport NI guidance and start to collate the necessary information requested in preparation for submission.”

Further details and links can be found under ‘Financial Package’ section of the RYANI Return to Boating Page.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland

RYA Northern Ireland’s Annual Awards have been put on hold this year due to coronavirus restrictions but this doesn’t mean that the celebrations have stopped.

Virtually, RYANI will be celebrating clubs and the boating community right across Northern Ireland as part of its Recognition 2020 initiative, sharing amazing success stories from a very challenging year.

Speaking about the initiative, RYANI’s chief operating officer Richard Honeyford said: “We all know 2020 has been a tough year, especially for those who have lost loved ones or been otherwise impacted by the pandemic.

“The boating community has shown itself to play such an important part within local communities and we want to capture that effort and achievements in what has been extremely difficult circumstances.

“Whether it is an individual achieving something significant or a club supporting the NHS and key workers, we would like to hear from you.”

The first inspirational club in the Recognition 2020 series is Foyle Sailability. The club is vitally important for its members, providing them with a chance to sail and also the opportunity to engage with others.

When restrictions were announced, Foyle Sailability very quickly replaced regular events with online meetings. A lighthearted catch-up with some training and discussion around important issues facing the club, this gave members something to look forward to each week.

The weekly catch-up was such a hit with members that it has become a much-loved weekly event — and the WhatsApp group after the meeting is usually a hive of activity, keeping everyone connected and in good spirits.

Fundraising has been particularly difficult this year but the club has used online Zoom meetings to publicise its work. Recently an online meeting was set up with the club’s local Inner Wheel Group where members heard about Foyle Sailability’s important work.

They also had the chance to hear first-hand from chairman Garry Crothers about his journey sailing across the Atlantic single-handed. Garry, who lost an arm in a motorcycle accident in 2009, told an inspirational account of his trans Atlantic crossing.

Since the meeting, the Inner Wheel Group has announced it will adopt Foyle Sailability as its chosen charity this year. Other groups have also been in touch to find out what can be arranged via online meetings.

Foyle Sailability is a shining example of a club that has been adapting positively to the Covid restrictions. From innovative funding link ups to keeping members socially connected, Foyle Sailability is leading the way.

The club has always been forward-thinking, right back from its inception. The club started absolutely no equipment about eight years ago and they now have 4 Hansa 303s, a Hawk 20 and two safety boats.

Ken Curry from the club explains: “Initially members came for a sailing session with their local groups, and they may have seen them only once or twice. We then ran an inter college regatta for disabled students. We took the dinghies to the colleges and then ran on the water training sessions.

“The students loved it and we realised we needed to do more, so we set up evening sessions every two weeks due to tidal restrictions. Most of these students returned every time and are still regular participants.”

Commenting on pandemic restrictions, Ken explains: “When the Covid-19 restrictions came in, we all knew that there would be little or, as it turned out, no sailing this year. Our disabled members were so disappointed.

“Not only do they love sailing, but they love meeting up with their friends. They were going to miss the social side as much as the activities. Luckily we had a WhatsApp group to keep in contact.

“I decided to try Zoom for the first time so that we could all meet, see each other, chat, have some fun and also do training. It was such a success that the free Zoom 40 minute session wasn't long enough. So now with a full zoom membership, every Monday evening we carry out training and have loads of fun, too, with no time restrictions.

“Hopefully we can get back on the water early next year, but in the meantime, we continue to learn using the RYA Sailability Logbook as a guide and to enjoy each others’ company.”

Published in Sailability

RYA Northern Ireland held its first-ever virtual AGM earlier this month, reflecting on a different but successful year for the sport leading up to April 2020.

Guests at the meeting included RYA chief executive RYA Sarah Treseder OBE, chair Chris Preston and Clodagh Cooke from the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.

During the meeting, both Sarah and Chris spoke to members, with Sarah also discussing the importance of clubs as a community. She talked about the positivity of clubs across Northern Ireland and how they have been helping their members and wider communities throughout Covid-19.

RYANI chief operating officer Richard Honeyford led the general business of the meeting, firstly addressing the key challenges clubs are facing due to Covid-19 and then reviewing the work that has taken place throughout the year until April 2020.

Club representatives and guests were then taken through proposed updates to RYANI Articles to allow questions to be raised. The Articles are now being sent to affiliated organisations for approval.

This was Jackie Patton’s final meeting as chair of RYANI. During her closing comments, she thanked everyone who had supported her during her three-year tenure. Susan McKnight from Strangford Lough Yacht Club was elected as chair and has now taken up her post.

Commenting after her election as chair, Susan said: “I am honoured to be taking on the position as chair and I am looking forward to working with the board, Richard and the whole RYA Northern Ireland team.”

James Ogg, Peter Kennedy, David Williams, Andrew Corkill, Roy Totten and Jill Heron were elected as directors.

Richard Honeyford commented: “While it has been a challenging year for us all, the RYA Northern Ireland AGM gave us a chance to reflect on the key challenges for our clubs and wider boating community. It also highlighted the excellent work that volunteers have undertaken and the success many of our sailors have had throughout the year.

“I would like to thank Jackie Patton for all her work as chair of RYA Northern Ireland and I welcome Susan McKnight as our new chair. I am looking forward to working with Susan and all of our directors and board members in the year ahead.”

Following the meeting, Clodagh Cooke from the Northern Ireland Youth Forum Belfast praised the establishment of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Forum initiative and the work that had been achieved throughout the year.

She explained the importance of the relationship between NIYF and RYANI and introduced the RYA Northern Ireland young sailors who delivered a presentation during the meeting.

Jackie Patton, who leads on the RYANI Youth Forum, said: “RYA Northern Ireland has been working in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Youth Forum to set up our RYA Northern Ireland Youth Forum. This youth leadership and development programme is the first of its kind within the sport and the RYA.

“The NIYF has provided valuable support, leadership and funding to make this happen. Our own RYA Northern Ireland Youth Forum has already achieved so much and I would like to particularly acknowledge Kaitlyn, Abbie, Autumn, Cody and Charlie for their hard work and dedication. I look forward to seeing what the next year brings.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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Gordon Reid has rejoined RYANI as development officer to cover Mary Martin’s maternity leave.

An architect by profession, Reid is an experienced watersport enthusiast who has also worked in club and coach development with Rowing Ireland.

The Belfast man has a background in both rowing — he has been captain at Lagan Scullers’ Club for 25 years — and dinghy sailing.

He is an active sailor and instructor at East Down Yacht Club, Killyleagh Yacht Club and NI Sea Cadets, having competed in multiple Northern Ireland and international events.

Gordon Reid of the RYA in Northern IrelandGordon Reid is a director of the NI Sports Forum

But he has also been involved with powerboating, windsurfing and kayaking — not to mention club administration, as Commodore of East Down Yacht Club.

He serves as director of the NI Sports Forum, and is a member of the Sport Matters Implementation Group for Participation.

Commenting on his new role, he said: “It is great to be back and getting up to speed with the new ways we can support individuals, clubs and centres as they seek to engage and hold onto members in these difficult times.

“I look forward to meeting representative of clubs and centres over the coming weeks, and I am keen to support members in their work, so that we can all become better at what we do.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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RYA Northern Ireland is giving sailing and boating clubs across the country the opportunity to access support for club membership and development by providing 'Rediscover Sailing Days'.

Following lockdown and a challenging few months, many clubs have seen increased interest and activity from their members, as well as attracting new members.

The Rediscover Sailing initiative will help to support sailing and boating clubs to encourage member activity, retain club membership, recruit volunteers, enhance the boating experience for members and assist with workforce development.

The initiative had been due to take place from May until September under the title of 'Discover Sailing', but due to Covid-19, this, unfortunately, had to be cancelled.

In previous years, the initiative has been a pivotal contributor to increasing the awareness of Sailing and boating in Northern Ireland, offering every one of all abilities the opportunity to try the sport.

This time there will be some added extras with workshops on boat maintenance and volunteer recruitment opportunities on offer, depending on the goals of the club.

RYA Northern Ireland's Active Clubs Co-Ordinator Lisa McCaffrey commented: "I am excited about the Rediscover Sailing initiative. There is still some uncertainty at the minute regarding Covid-19, but at the moment we are planning for the Rediscover Sailing Days, and these will meet all government guidelines. If things change, we will review the situation and adhere to all policies to ensure the safety of our clubs and their members. Clubs must connect with members at this time either to develop their Sailing, whether this is through activities or workshops.
I am looking forward to communicating with clubs again on potential participation opportunities; it is key for the future of our sport and its members."

If your club or centre is keen on organising a Rediscover Sailing Day there is more information here

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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Sharks in Irish waters

Irish waters are home to 71 species of shark, skates and rays, 58 of which have been studied in detail and listed on the Ireland Red List of Cartilaginous fish. Irish sharks range from small Sleeper sharks, Dogfish and Catsharks, to larger species like Frilled, Mackerel and Cow sharks, all the way to the second largest shark in the world, the Basking shark. 

Irish waters provide a refuge for an array of shark species. Tralee Bay, Co. Kerry provides a habitat for several rare and endangered sharks and their relatives, including the migratory tope shark, angel shark and undulate ray. This area is also the last European refuge for the extremely rare white skate. Through a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) project, Marine Institute scientists have been working with fishermen to assess the distribution, diversity, and monthly relative abundance of skates and rays in Tralee, Brandon and Dingle Bays.

“These areas off the southwest coast of Ireland are important internationally as they hold some of the last remaining refuges for angel shark and white skate,” said Dr Maurice Clarke of the Marine Institute. “This EMFF project has provided data confirming the critically endangered status of some species and provides up-to-date information for the development of fishery measures to eliminate by-catch.” 

Irish waters are also home to the Black Mouthed Catshark, Galeus melastomus, one of Ireland’s smallest shark species which can be found in the deep sea along the continental shelf. In 2018, Irish scientists discovered a very rare shark-nursery 200 nautical miles off the west coast by the Marine Institute’s ROV Holland 1 on a shelf sloping to 750 metres deep. 

There are two ways that sharks are born, either as live young or from egg casings. In the ‘case’ of Black Mouthed Catsharks, the nursery discovered in 2018, was notable by the abundance of egg casings or ‘mermaid’s purses’. Many sharks, rays and skate lay eggs, the cases of which often wash ashore. If you find an egg casing along the seashore, take a photo for Purse Search Ireland, a citizen science project focusing on monitoring the shark, ray and skate species around Ireland.

Another species also found by Irish scientists using the ROV Holland 1 in 2018 was a very rare type of dogfish, the Sail Fin Rough Shark, Oxynotus paradoxus. These sharks are named after their long fins which resemble the trailing sails of a boat, and live in the deep sea in waters up to 750m deep. Like all sharks, skates and rays, they have no bones. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage, much like what our noses and ears are made from! This material is much more flexible and lighter than bone which is perfect for these animals living without the weight of gravity.

Throughout history sharks have been portrayed as the monsters of the sea, a concept that science is continuously debunking. Basking sharks were named in 1765 as Cetorhinus maximus, roughly translated to the ‘big-nosed sea monster’. Basking sharks are filter feeders, often swimming with their mouths agape, they filter plankton from the water.

They are very slow moving and like to bask in the sun in shallow water and are often seen in Irish waters around Spring and early Summer. To help understand the migration of these animals to be better able to understand and conserve these species, the Irish Basking Shark Group have tagged and mapped their travels.

Remarkably, many sharks like the Angel Shark, Squatina squatina have the ability to sense electricity. They do this via small pores in their skin called the ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ which are able to detect the tiny electrical impulses of a fish breathing, moving or even its heartbeat from distances of over a kilometre! Angel sharks, often referred to as Monkfish have a distinctively angelic shape, with flattened, large fins appearing like the wings of an angel. They live on the seafloor in the coastal waters of Ireland and much like a cat are nocturnal, primarily active at night.

The intricate complexity of shark adaptations is particularly noticeable in the texture of their skin. Composed of miniscule, perfectly shaped overlapping scales, the skin of shark provides them with protection. Often shark scales have been compared to teeth due to their hard enamel structure. They are strong, but also due to their intricate shape, these scales reduce drag and allow water to glide past them so that the shark can swim more effortlessly and silently. This natural flawless design has been used as inspiration for new neoprene fabric designs to help swimmers glide through the water. Although all sharks have this feature, the Leafscale Gulper Shark, Centrophorus squamosus, found in Ireland are specifically named due to the ornate leaf-shape of their scales.

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