When it comes to sailing, not everyone is in the same boat, so the sport is changing to meet the demands and interests of a new generation.
The traditional image of sailing was of dinghies or yachts, coastal towns, regattas, and members-only clubhouses with crests on the wall outside and dusty trophy cabinets within.
These days, however, someone enjoying being on the water could just as easily be standing on a paddleboard, having hired it for 60 minutes, or even inflated it themselves from out of a backpack.
The developments of new technologies, the drive for wider accessibility, the desire for sustainability, and the altering of tastes around how to get involved in sport – all these waves present both opportunities and challenges.
For RYA (Royal Yachting Association) Cymru, staying afloat in these swirling currents means adaptability, innovation, and a healthy curiosity about which way the wind is blowing.
“There has been a lot of change in our sport and there is more change to come,” says RYA Cymru chief executive James Stuart.
“The question for us is how do we explore and understand these changes.”
Getting on board
Accessibility and opportunity in sailing has always been an issue, particularly in areas away from coastal regions, or inland watersports centres.
Then, there are barriers to entry around the costs of travel to those places of activity, along with the costs of buying or hiring a boat.
The recent 2022 School Sport survey across Wales showed that around 1,000 young people across Wales regularly take part in sailing.
But the survey also revealed that around 37,000 children expressed a desire to try sailing as a physical activity - a latent demand that RYA Cymru are very keen to try and meet.
James Stuart says: “There is a demand there at a pretty good scale. If we can find a way to convert that interest into activity then we would give those young people a chance to try something we know is amazing.”
Historically, schools have helped provide some opportunity through trips to outdoor adventure centres across Wales. But with budget cuts affecting that kind of access, sailing clubs are striving to keep membership costs as low as possible for youngsters.
“A small membership fee – in tens of pounds – can get a young person the keys to the whole building, in terms of free access to kit and equipment and maybe some training, too,” adds James.
“If you’re playing 5-a-side football every week, you could spend more on that than on sailing.”
As an example, Llandegfedd Sailing Club – situated eight miles north of Newport on Llandegfedd Lake – offers both U18 and student membership for £40 per year.
There are also reduced fee taster sessions run throughout Wales at different times of the year.