As the debate rumbles on as to how we can engage more young people in the sport of sailing, the Royal Cork Yacht Club has witnessed 'tremendous growth' in junior dinghy sailing activity across every level over the last eighteen months writes RCYC Rear Admiral, Stephen O'Shaugnessy.
The club currently boasts some of the largest active dinghy fleets in the country; The Optimist class for example, has in excess of seventy sailors right across an age range from 8 -15 years old. Equally, the club Laser and Topper fleets have also seen rapid growth in numbers participating on a consistent basis at both club and regional level.
In tandem to all this single–handed dinghy activity, there is a growing fleet of RS boats being purchased by members and this appears to be filling a gap to ensure that junior members in their late teenage years keep sailing. While this is very much work in progress, the signs are positive for further growth for two handed sailing across a number of classes, including a possible 29er class.
The result of all this is an average of ninety dinghies currently taking to the water at weekends to take part in club league racing a coaching programmes.
So what is driving this growth? A very focused junior dinghy committee ensures that every base is covered when it comes to our junior activity in the club. Underlying all our activity is the fundamental belief that every junior member is a fantastic asset to the club, irrespective of their age, ability or ambition. All our club coaching programmes and courses are structured in such a manner that the sailors within each fleet feel a strong sense of identity of being part of a larger team even though they each may well have different goals or objectives in terms of competing at various levels or simply sailing for the love of sailing'.
The spin off from all this activity has also helped towards a substantial increase in those participating in their club summer sailing courses. This, coupled with the fact that a growing number of family members are encouraging their children to be more involved in healthy outdoor activity during the summer months has led to one of the largest summer programmes in the country this year with in excess of hundred and seventy participants.
Looking to the future, the hope is to further build on the philosophy that as a sport, sailing is a skill for life that can be enjoyed at any stage and at any age and whatever ability.
There is clearly a growing demand across Ireland for dinghy sailing at every level and the club looks forward to continued growth in the build up to its 300th anniversary in 2020.