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RYA Northern Ireland has been reviewing its governance structures for the delivery of its strategic plan, Navigating the Future.

RYANI chief executive Greg Yarnall says: “The proposed changes are being put forward to help provide greater organisational stability and put us in the best position possible to support members, whilst opening up opportunities to develop and grow the organisation in the future.”

The RYANI board is proposing to change the length of term that a chair holds, as well as a move to charitable status, as previously reported on

RYANI is required to have 75 per cent of affiliated clubs in Northern Ireland vote in favour of the changes, which will be made through its Articles of Association. These will be issued to affiliated clubs in the coming days, Yarnall adds.

For more on this story, see the RYA website HERE.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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RYA Northern Ireland has hailed the success of its junior sailors in the recent Topper Worlds as well as the Irish and British Nationals in the region’s largest junior single-handed class.

In early July, four out of the top five sailors in the Irish Nationals at Ballyholme Yacht Club were from the Northern Ireland fleet — with Cormac Byrne of Strangford Sailing Club in second, Luke Simpson from County Antrim YC in third and Ballyholme YC’s Emily Macafee fifth overall, while in the 4.3 Class, Adam Green of Lough Erne YC placed third.

As previously reported on, CAYC’s Luke Simpson and Tom Driscoll from the Royal North and Ballyholme provided NI’s best performances at the Royal Cork in the Topper Worlds later in July.

After a long week at the Worlds, only five NI sailors made the trip to Plas Heli Sailing Club in North Wales for the British Nationals last week but again put in a fantastic effort.

Cormac Byrne hit out with an incredible first day posting a 2, 1, 2 to lead overall, only to then suffer a Black flag in race two and have the scores amended. A tough blow but these things happen in championship racing.

Lighter winds played a part in the qualifying rounds as likely candidates struggled and some even missed the cut for the gold fleet. Consistency would prove invaluable and Like managed the event very well to make the podium in third overall.

With more wind on the last day, others managed to find form, posting several top three results, but after a tough start to the week had to settle for places just outside of the top ten: Tom 12th, Emily 15th and Cormac in 20th.

“Congratulations to our sailors on a great competition season. And hats off to the parents and coaches who supported them and drove them around the country and further afield to realise their goals,” RYANI said.

Published in Topper

For the first time ever, Northern Ireland had two sailors competing in the Junior U23 World Championship for Olympic 49er and 49erFX at Travemünder Woche in Germany late last month.

With competitive racing and up and down the leaderboard, over 100 teams descended on the city of Lübeck show their skills and compare their progress to their peers as they transition from youth to senior racing.

The NI sailors were each in different pairings with sailors from Tralee and Dublin.

Erin McIlwaine from Newcastle Yacht Club launched her 49erFX campaign last spring with Ellie Cunnane of Tralee Bay SC, as previously reported on, and has been training both abroad and in Dublin throughout the summer.

Despite entering two previous events this year, the Junior Worlds were their first real test as previous events were either cancelled or so windy half the fleet didn’t compete.

Ellen Barbour from County Antrim Yacht Club is fresh into the class after transitioning from the ILCA 6 this summer and teamed up with Elysia O’Leary of Dublin’s Royal St George YC.

Elysia has been sailing the boat for a while now but was on the lookout for a crew to campaign with. Ellen, a competitive ILCA sailor in her own right, was also looking for new options in the sport and together they created the ideal pairing.

Both teams had a steep learning curve to put all their training into practice among a large fleet of very talented sailors from across the globe. Erin and Ellie ultimately came up short of the Gold fleet, despite posting to back-to-back race wins and showing signs of great future potential.

Ellen has had just two months’ experience using a trapeze and sailing with a new partner, and this was very much a training exercise rather than a results-based event. The goal was to take part and asses the big areas the team need to work on and learn more about how the top teams get the boats around the course.

Erin McIlwaine says: “Overall, it was a very enjoyable event, racing in some mixed and tricky conditions. Unfortunately, we made some weak decisions at the start of the week that ultimately left us just outside the Gold fleet.

“Winning two out of three races in the final series confirmed that we were sailing well and can now focus our efforts on the Senior World Championships in The Hague.”

Ellen Barbour added: “Having never trapezed before and only being in the boat for two months, we went in knowing mistakes would be made and it would be a great learning experience.

“We had a few good race results which we are happy with and we have come away with a clear idea of what we need to work on in the coming month.”

Measuring success for girls in sailing is also a topic that was discussed in a recent webinar hosted by RYANI to discuss its research on understanding the experience of women and girls in the sport.

Kate Broderick, RYANI pathways officer, provided her own experiences of sailing which have been shared on the RYA website HERE.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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Following the launch of its Navigating the Future strategic plan, RYA Northern Ireland has been looking at governance structures to ensure it is are set up in the best way possible to progress as a sport and organisation.

This process has been started by looking at the recruitment of three new board directors and has followed by the refresh of the board sub committees. As part of this process, the board have also considered the term length for the chair and the adoption of charitable status.

The board have discussed both areas but want members and affiliated clubs to have an opportunity to hear about proposed plans and feedback any views.

To that end, anyone involved in sailing and boating in Northern Ireland is invited to a webinar on Thursday 10 August at 7pm to hear more, as well as meet and hear from members of the board with an opportunity to ask questions about any areas of the business.

This will be the first of quarterly webinars and there will be a chance to check in with board/staff members for an update on key areas or ask any questions/advice.

Chair term length consultation

The current chair term is set for a single three-year term. The board would like to change the chair’s term to include an option of an additional two years, which would result in a three-year term plus the option for an additional two-year term, and are asking affiliated clubs to approve this change.

RYANI suggests the following advantages and rationale of an extended chair term:

  • Gives the chair a longer period to build a strong relationship with the CEO and other board members, creating greater consistency momentum for the Board and staff team
  • Create better alignment with the Home Countries (RYA Wales: 2 x 4 years term for chair; RYA Scotland: 2 x 2 years; RYA: 3 x 3 years)
  • Create a smoother and longer preparation time for finding and handover for a new Chair
  • Creates an opportunity to build momentum following the launch of the new five-year strategy, Navigating the Future (or any future strategic plans)

It also acknowledges disadvantages to the change:

  • More challenging if there is a poor relationship between the chair and the rest of the board/CEO (although the break option at three years partly negates this)
  • More difficult to find a chair that is prepared to take on a longer term length (again negated slightly with potential break at three years)

Charity status consultation

RYANI is currently set up as a Company Limited by Guarantee and works on a not-for-profit basis. The company has been researching whether a move to a charitable organisation would benefit in the long term. Other sporting organisations that have taken up charitable status include Ulster Hockey and Netball NI.

Benefits to a move to charitable status would include additional funding opportunities becoming available that could support the organisation to develop and enhance sailing and boating across Northern Ireland.

The feedback from RYA and other national governing bodies in NI that have charitable status is that there has not been significant additional workload identified and it is no more bureaucratic than being a Company Limited by Guarantee.

The board have approved a motion to pursue charitable status and are asking for affiliated clubs support for a change in articles to enable RYANI to start the process with the NI Charity Commission, which would include a change in articles.

To hear more about the two proposed changes, book your place at the webinar on the Eventbrite page HERE.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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RYA Northern Ireland has issued the Notice of Race and opened entries for the 2023 edition of the RYANI F10 Marine Youth Championships, which will take place on the weekend of 9-10 September.

Following the cancellation of last year’s championships due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, RYANI welcomes back the prestigious event to uncover the Northern Ireland champions across junior and youth sailing classes that include Toppers, Optimists, Fevas and 29ers, ILCA 4 and 6 and a regatta fleet.

Andrew Baker, performance manager at RYANI said: “Our annual Youth Championships is a major event in the youth sailing calendar and for many their first experience of a larger event. Whether a sailor turns up as the favourite to win or it’s their first time on a racecourse, the event really delivers something for all young sailors in NI.

“It is probably the biggest event we run alongside our clubs, at times it can be logistically challenging and demanding on volunteer resources but ultimately demonstrates what can be achieved when everyone plays their part and gets involved.”

RYANI is also excited to announce a new headline sponsor for the event in F10 Marine, an online boat shop that offers a wide range of products for boating enthusiasts and provides quality items to enhance the boating experience and cater to diverse needs.

Damian Goodman from F10 Marine said: “F10 Marine is proud to announce its sponsorship of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Championships, scheduled to take place in September. This significant partnership reflects F10 Marine’s commitment to supporting youth development in the field of sailing and its dedication to promoting water sports in the region.

“By supporting this event, F10 Marine is actively contributing to the growth of the sailing community and empowering young sailors to pursue their passion for the sport.”

On the announcement of the sponsorship, RYANI chief executive Greg Yarnall said: “It is fantastic to have a company like F10 Marine on board to support the RYANI Youth Championships, we would like to thank F10 Marine for their support, and we hope it will be the start of a long lasting partnership between the two organisations that can enable us to further develop sailing and boating in Northern Ireland.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s sailing community are being invited to apply to join new roles among the various sub-committees of the board of RYA Northern Ireland.

The initiative follows the recent launch of RYANI’s strategic plan, Navigating the Future, which aims to broaden sailing, boating and watersport’s appeal in the region to a wider rage of audiences.

RYANI is encouraging all to see how they can contribute to its growth, whether that’s in performance, finance, cruising, the environment and more.

Board chair Susan McKnight says: “The sub-committees will be our eyes and ears on the ground and having the right people, who are passionate about the sport of sailing and boating, will be vital for the sport to develop and be successful in the future.

“If contributing to the development of the sport interests you, please get in touch. Most people have more to offer than they realise, and we do not want people to be put off by thinking these committees are for the elite few or that you must have been involved for years and years to contribute. We look forward to speaking to you.”

With one of its strategic aims being focused on improving diversity, RYANI says it is keen to hear from people of all backgrounds and communities — and especially women as it works towards gender parity. See the application form HERE.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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Bob Harper, a dedicated sailing volunteer for almost 20 years, is among those named in the King’s Birthday Honours list on Saturday (17 June).

Bob is awarded an MBE for services to sailing for people with disabilities in Northern Ireland and is one of more than 100 people on the list — the first named by King Charles III.

The Carrickfergus man took up the role of RYA Northern Ireland sailability coordinator 2003 and over 18 years worked with clubs and centres all over the region. He stepped down from the role at the end of 2021, as previously reported on

Under his tenure, three dedicated sailability clubs were set up along with five accredited centres. They continue to bring the joy of sailing to disabled and disadvantaged people right across Northern Ireland.

Bob has always been 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.

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

Greg Yarnall, chief executive officer of RYANI congratulated Bob, saying: “I am delighted that Bob has been recognised with an MBE for all of the hard work he has done for our sport. His enthusiasm is a shining example of all that is good about sailing and our dedicated volunteers.

“Over the years Bob has played a huge role in helping the sailabilty community grow from strength to strength in Northern Ireland. As a result of his hard work, hundreds of people have been able to enjoy sailing, regardless of their ability or their background.”

Commenting on his recognition, Bob says: “It’s a bit surreal, I’m going to have to buy a suit! I have lots of people calling and the WhatsApps are flying. It’s just great to be able to look back on all of the friends we have made and I am delighted that the organisation for disabled sailing has been recognised.

“My initial thoughts when I found out about it were of the many, many volunteers who supported me. This is the recognition of the work that countless volunteers have done over the years – without them, none of it could have happened. I was just the figure head for the whole thing.

“I didn’t start sailing until I was in late 30s and I was so enthusiastic I just wanted other people to enjoy it and I am delighted that I have had the opportunity to do all of this.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland

RYA Northern Ireland have announced that they will have a member of staff taking up the new role of pathways officer in July.

Kate Broderick (née Pounder) has been covering the post of active clubs coordinator in Northern Ireland since November, when Lisa McCaffrey went on maternity leave.

Kate previously worked as performance sailing officer for RYA Scotland. Before that she was a senior sailing instructor at Ballyholme Yacht Club.

The pathways officer role is a new position for RYANI and will support the delivery of the ‘Reimagine Pathways’ strategic aim in the new Navigating the Future strategy, which was launched in March (PDF).

While the active clubs role works with clubs to introduce new people to the sport through programmes such as Discover Sailing, On Board and Women on Water, the pathways officer will focus more on supporting the transition and retention of people that have started in the sport to developing a lifelong love of sailing. This may be following a racing and performance pathway, or it may be through enjoying being out on the water in a recreational way.

RYANI’s chief executive officer Greg Yarnall said: “It is absolutely crucial that the hard work clubs put in to introducing new people to the sport is not wasted and the appropriate pathways are in place that suit the varying needs of participants to continue in this fantastic sport.

“The pathways officer will work closely with the active clubs coordinator and the performance manager to look at the types of activities that will help retain people in the sport, and for those who want to progress, help make it easier to transition into a performance environment, enabling them to maximise their potential.

“We will have an initial focus on women and girls and double handed pathways from recreational to performance level as these are two areas where feedback informs us that more can be done to improve the opportunities and environments in place.”

Kate Broderick, who will be taking up the post, said: “It has been fantastic meeting with clubs and working with volunteers in NI over the past six months of the active clubs coordinator maternity-cover role.

“For me, it’s a very exciting chapter moving into the pathways officer role, as I will have the opportunity to collaborate with more club volunteers and participants within the long term — specifically supporting clubs with their participants and officials to bring more opportunities to their water.

“I am looking forward to what the future looks like for this role and how I can help strengthen retainment in sport with future projects that offer a variety of pathways for participants of all ages.”

Broderick will continue in her role as active clubs coordinator until the end of June and will continue to be the point of contact until there is an alternative staff member in place.

There have some other small changes to the staff team and their responsibilities to align with the delivery of the new strategic plan:

  • Greg Yarnall – CEO
  • Gayle Logan – executive assistant
  • Andrew Baker – performance manager
  • Mary Martin – workforce development officer (Previously Mary was a development Officer but has moved to a role solely focused on the engagement of new and the development of volunteers, coaches, officials and instructors to align with the ‘Inspire people to give or continue to give their time’ strategic aim in the new Navigating the Future strategy.)
  • Kate Broderick - pathways officer from 1 July 2023, currently active clubs coordinator (maternity cover)
  • Lisa McCaffrey – active clubs coordinator (currently on maternity leave)
Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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RYA Northern Ireland has provided an update on its engagement with North Channel Wind on its offshore wind project, to be located off the East Antrim coast of Northern Ireland.

The governing body recently attended a meeting, alongside RYA Scotland, to find out about plans, ask questions and raise any concerns voiced by the sailing community.

RYANI’s chief operating officer Greg Yarnall says: “RYA Northern Ireland had a very open conversation with North Channel Wind. They shared their commitment to open consultation with all users of the sea and provided an update about where the project is currently up to and some of the considerations already made.”

Following the meeting, North Channel Wind commented: “We are keen to engage with all stakeholders and we thank the RYA for meeting with us to discuss the proposals.

“We are currently at the scoping stage of the development process, which means identifying all the factors that need to be taken into account in the subsequent project development and environmental impact assessment. As part of this there will be some early public consultation exhibitions in late May/June to give people an opportunity to learn about the project and give feedback at this scoping stage.

“With a combined potential capacity of over 1.4 gigawatts, the two proposed North Channel Wind sites will support the delivery of renewable energy targets, the transition to a net zero carbon economy and reduce our reliance on imported energy.”

North Channel Wind says it has reinforced its commitment to engaging with the sailing and boating community. RYA Northern Ireland and North Channel Wind will be preparing a Q&A document to provide clarity and information.

If you have any questions or general concerns about the project, contact [email protected]. For more information about the current proposals, see the North Channel Wind website HERE.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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RYA Northern Ireland is calling for participants to take part in research which aims to provide a better understanding of the experiences of women and girls in sailing.

When it comes to participation, the number of women and girls taking part in sailing has always been lower than that of men and boys. The current club membership in Northern Ireland shows a ratio of 35 to 65, meaning nearly twice as much male participation.

However, this number is often even more imbalanced when it comes to roles in the sailing workforce, such as coaches, instructors, officials and club volunteer positions.

Some male focus groups will also be taking place in the future and the governing body will consider whether a similar survey would be helpful, too.

RYANI’s chief operating officer Greg Yarnall says: “This is vitally important research. We are hopeful that by building a fuller picture of the barriers for women and girls in our sport, we will enable a future where gender parity exists across the sport.”

The research has some key areas of focus, including the following:

  • Developing a better understanding of the barriers to taking part and reasons for dropping out
  • Better understanding women’s and girls’ motivations across the talent and performance pathway and how better support can be provided to enable women and girls to progress
  • Developing an understanding of the experiences and environments that have helped or hindered women’s and girls’ participation in the sport from grassroots to elite level
  • Building understanding about what would enable more women and girls to start or continue their participation, take part more regularly or pursue a career in the sport
  • Gaining information and understanding on the motivators for women and girls to join workforce and volunteer-based roles and identify any issues regarding access

RYANI is conducting the research with Emma Vickers, an ex-England international athlete and head of insight at TASS, an independent sports research body.

Responses will be analysed by Vickers independently with all participants remaining anonymous. The results will then be fed back to RYANI with a series of recommendations.

Yarnall says: “We would be delighted if as many women and girls as possible could complete the survey, as this will really help to build our understanding.”

Anyone that completes the survey will have the opportunity to win either a £100 or £50 Musto or Helly Hansen voucher.

Follow this link to complete the survey before the deadline of Monday 3 April.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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