I can’t believe I am actually excited about the Olympics, but I have to admit to a creeping sense of butterfly’s as the first athletes arrive, the news is jam-packed with images of the venues all across the UK and we have the lovely Boris (London Mayor) popping up to add to the general madness of the event (favourite press conference of the morning – after a bus driver taking athletes to the Olympic Park got lost for 4 hours Boris’s response was that the athletes would have had “more of a scenic view of London“. Gotta love him.).
There was also an unfortunate incident where BAA managed to ‘lose’ the Australian Sailing teams sails – surely a minor point….
As usual though we seem intent on shooting ourselves in the foot with huge amounts of coverage of things that are going wrong – but you know what? There is always something that goes wrong – can we talk about some of the good stuff???
The Olympics have been great for Sailing in the UK with lots of additional funding for training across sailing clubs in the UK, and an amazing venue at Weymouth that hosted its first events –to ‘practice’ – last year. I had the opportunity to go to one – the RS games, but couldn’t make it – something I bitterly regret as having heard about how fantastic the sailing was from others who went, it really was a big miss. But what of the legacy? Well its been a great few years, with UK Sport pumping in £22 million to the sport – this has provided training and coaching days at clubs, grants for equipment as well as some big investment in the new sailing academy. We’ve topped the medal table for the last three Olympics, so this seems completely worthwhile…. but what about after the Olympics? Well the indications seem to be that that’s it. Within our own club we have had training funding to allow for an adult coaching day every year, been able to provide a heavily subsidised summer camp for the kids complete with full complement of trainers and coaches, and also some new equipment in the form of a Wayfarer and 6 oppis. there have also been ‘Sail for Gold’ events and regattas across the country – and even inflatable torch relays taking place!
But all of this will be stopping post-Olympics – although we can keep the equipment!
So will it harm us? I think the biggest problem facing Sailing in the UK is not all about investment – our big problems are membership and participation. Across the North East we see falling numbers in clubs as a whole, and even in healthy clubs falling numbers on the water. Some local clubs are now pooling resources and members to keep afloat, Open meetings are seeing few boats travelling and others hitting critical points in revenue.
So what does this mean for us? We sail at Kielder – Britains most remote village. That means we are a ‘destination’. We don’t run anything during the week – because we can’t get people here!
So it’s all about the weekends, and with the weather as it has been (for anyone not local, continual torrential rain has lashed the North East pretty much consistently for the last six weeks throughout the worst drought the UK has ever seen and hose pipe bans galore), the price of petrol, and general economic doom and gloom we have definitely suffered in terms of numbers at the club of late. But it’s not a new problem – ever since we have been at the club it’s been a continual cry – although membership is pretty steady we have declining numbers in our racing on a Sunday, which is seen by some as a key indicator of the health of the club. But since we joined the club now also has an active Cruising contingent who sail on a Saturday, and from the enthusiasm of just one member we are now established as a Windsurfing club – complete with new members, training centre accreditation and a dozen new boards (courtesy of another grant!).
My problem is I can only do one thing at a time. I can either train or sail, windsurf or dinghy sail, be or duty, or go on a cruise. So the more activities we provide the more options there are – and our club is becoming a more varied and diverse place to be.
So is this a bad thing? I don’t know and maybe only the coming years can tell us if this diversity is what saves or sinks us.
The Olympic sailing starts on the 29th of July – we have a fantastic team and its all being televised – maybe I start the membership drive there? Go GB!