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RYANI Youth Forum Celebrates Inspirational Young Leaders After an Extraordinary Year

21st April 2021
Members of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Forum in 2019 Members of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Forum in 2019 Credit: RYANI

A group of inspirational young leaders who took part in RYANI’s Youth Forum have come together for a celebration event marking the progress they have made during an extraordinary year.

RYANI’s Youth Forum began in 2019 as a pilot project and was a partnership with the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.

The first of its kind within the RYA, clubs across Northern Ireland were represented with young people signing up to develop leadership and personal development skills to help future-proof the sport for years to come.

Throughout the year, RYANI brought the young people together, consulted with them on their opinions about the sport, listened to their voices and acted on their feedback.

Former chair of RYANI, Jackie Patton led the project. She said: “In order to future-proof our clubs we need to get a younger age group to engage, commit and see something of value. They also need to know that they have a voice within their club and the sport and that their opinion matters.”

Jackie added: “After working closely with our Youth Forum for a year, we now have a group of young people committed to RYA. They have more knowledge and understanding of the organisation and will share their learning in many settings, such as school.

“The young people have brought many new ideas, which we wouldn't have known about before. If they are supported, these young people are the future commodores, board members, race officers of our sport.

‘The Youth Forum allows youths to have ideas. It is clear that when they work with adults who listen, great things happen’


“They have demonstrated a commitment to their sport, despite a world-wide pandemic and have gained new skills and are more confident. These are skills for life.”

At the celebration event, many people turned out to give their support and thanks to the Youth Forum. This included the chair of RYA, the RYANI chair and chief operating officer, board members and staff, as well as the deputy director of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum and other staff members, the youth development officer from Ulster Hockey and the family of many of the RYANI Youth Forum members.

During the event, which was led by Jackie Patton and the Youth Forum members, the young people talked about their experience, showed a video and some ‘jam boards’ which highlighted all of their feedback as participants of the forum.

Talking about her experience, Youth Forum member Abbie Brown said: “The Youth Forum has benefited me as it allows youths to have ideas. It is clear that when they work with adults who listen, great things happen.

“It has given the me the confidence in expressing my voice and option. In addition it has shown me on how to take constructive criticism.”

A highlight of the event was a presentation ceremony by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum. The young people were praised for their hard work and dedication and awarded a certificate.

‘Young people should be proud of what has been achieved within this leadership programme, the first of its kind in our sport’

Commenting on the progress the Youth Forum members made throughout the year, Paul Dynes from the Northern Ireland Youth Forum said: “The members of the RYA Northern Ireland Youth Forum are inspirational. Their commitment, motivation and desire to make a positive impact on their organisations is to be celebrated and praised.”

Looking ahead to the future, Jackie Patton is hopeful that the skills that the young people have developed through the Youth Forum, will serve them well for years to come.

“No matter what happens now or in the future the young people should be proud of what has been achieved within this leadership programme, the first of its kind in our sport,” she said.

“I hope they will take all that they have learned and put it into practice in their Clubs. It is an ambition to have created young ambassadors for our sport, and that they will keep connections as they go through life.”

She concluded: “As a young person, I never believed I would be chair of RYA Northern Ireland, or even sit on a committee, but it happened. I hope our young people will see that such positions are available to them and so much more besides if they choose. This will be the measure of success. I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Youth Forum in Belfast and its professional youth work team who helped us make it happen.” Team

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About the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Northern Ireland 

  • The RYA is the national body for dinghy, yacht and motor cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sports boats, windsurfing and personal watercraft and a leading representative for inland waterways cruising.
  • The RYA is recognised by Government, the media and opinion formers as the representative body and voice for the activities that it represents. It continually fights for the rights and freedoms of its 112,000 personal members.
  • The RYA has more than 1,500 affiliated clubs and classes, which represent some 350,000 boaters throughout the UK. It is estimated that 4 million people in the UK take part in boating activity annually.
  • The RYA also sets and maintains recognised standards for training for both leisure and commercial boating through a network of more than 2,400 RYA Recognised Training Centres across 58 countries. More than 250,000 people per year complete RYA training courses.
  • The RYA is responsible for one of the UK’s most successful Olympic medal-winning sports. Our coaching and development schemes actively support 800 of our country’s top sailors, from talented juniors to Olympic and World champions.
  • The RYA is committed to promoting all forms of boating and making them accessible to everyone. For more information please visit
  • The Royal Yachting Association Northern Ireland (RYA NI) acts for the RYA in Northern Ireland (NI) and the Chairman of RYA NI is invited to join the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) Policy Review Committee.
  • You can find the RYA Northern Ireland at Sketrick House, GE8, Jubilee Road, Newtownards, BT23 4YH.
  • RYA NI is a company limited by guarantee – Registration number NI 51945
  • Contact RYA NI: Tel: 02891 827154 email: [email protected]



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