RYA President HRH The Princess Royal was at the Southampton Boat Show this morning for the launch of the RYA's On Board learn to sail scheme

RYA President HRH The Princess Royal was at the Southampton Boat Show this morning for the launch of the RYA’s On Board learn to sail scheme.

Onboard is a nationwide, long-term programme developed by the RYA and supported by the British Marine Federation to attract more people into sailing. But unlike other schemes which tend to preach to the converted, this initiative very much focuses on encouraging total newcomers into the sport through unconventional routes by building closer links with schools and other sports clubs.

The initial funding of the scheme comes from the RYA with the BMF extending its support to £50,000 and Sports England £250,000. “The idea,” said Rod Carr, “is to grow the budget to £1million a year.”

Talking about the scheme and its benefits to the sport in general, Rod Carr, RYA Chief Executive said: “Onboard aims to encourage young people to experience the thrills, energy and friendship of sailing by providing an easy route to get on the water and stay there.”

He added: “Our aim over the next 10 years is to get half a million new young people into sailing and to make sailing a sport for life. What we’re after is a higher proportion of people who currently have no connection with sailing.”

To get the initiative off the ground two pilot schemes – one in the south-west and one in the north – have been carried out in the UK and both have proved a great success. Each region has two regional development officers and four part-time officers liaising with local schools and sailing clubs with the aim to provide a package to allow the scheme to run and hopefully ‘catch’ potential youngsters who may otherwise never have the opportunity to try out sailing. Clubs and volunteers will provide not only the platform for the Onboard scheme but an opportunity to promote their own club.

Potential long-term sailors who often ‘escape the net’ during the transition from learning to sail and joining a sailing club will also be targeted. It is after all relatively easy to take a course and learn to sail but to progress further into the sport it’s important to join a club. Therefore making joining sailing clubs more accessible is going to be an Onboard priority.

HRH The Princess Royal in her supporting speech at today’s launch summed up by saying: “Learning to sail is one thing but it takes a very brave soul to pluck up the courage to knock on the door of a yacht club and say ‘can I join your club?'”