In the past 12 years OB has introduced more than half a million youngsters to sailing and windsurfing and in June it was been officially relaunched.

It is RYA OnBoard but not as you know it. Imagine sparking a passion for sailing in a child, watching that child’s confidence and independence grow week-by-week and inspiring that youngster so much that they always want to fit sailing into their life. This is the ethos that sits at the heart of the new-look RYA OnBoard programme.

Supporting OnBoard

TV presenters Angellica Bell and Michael Underwood joined Paralympic gold medallist Helena Lucas at Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre for the official OnBoard relaunch where a group of local school pupils were having their very first OnBoard sailing session.

Angellica said: “It has been fantastic to be involved in relaunching in RYA OnBoard. The best thing about sailing and windsurfing is that they are fun, affordable and fantastic outdoor activities.”

The TV couple had their very first sailing session just a few weeks ago.

“We had a great time out on the water, the instructor was fantastic despite the fact that we had never done it before. Thankfully we did not get too wet, which is a bonus and the children had loads of fun!” Angellica concluded.

Developing character

As part of the OB relaunch, the team have been working closely with leading educational expert Professor Bill Lucas, ​​Director at the Centre for Real-World Learning at The University of Winchester to identify how sailing can nurture these traits and crossover into all areas of a young person’s life.

RYA Sport Development Manager Alistair Dickson explained: “In sailing, we know the life skills and positive attributes that sailing can bring a child or young person. The new-look OnBoard really focuses on harnessing and communicating these benefits to successfully engage with teachers, youth leaders and parents to help them see beyond sailing as a sport purely for fun but rather as an activity that embeds traits that can shape a child’s life, while having a great time in the process”.

The new-look OB programme focuses on developing seven specific character attributes: creative, confident, team player, communicator, performer, determined and independent.

Bill Lucas explains: “For several years now the Department for Education has recognised the importance of developing character in schools and has committed to helping them ensure more children develop character traits, attributes and behaviours that underpin success in education and work.

“It is a tricky, fast-paced and increasingly competitive world young people are growing up in. To be successful they need to evolve in line with this ever-changing world in which they are living. Through having developed a number of core character attributes an individual can be flexible and adaptable to embrace these challenges.”

Why the change?

The government’s ‘Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation’ strategy launched in 2015 looked at activity not just in terms of physical fitness but, amongst other factors, mental wellbeing and social and community development too.

With mental health and wellbeing high on the national education agenda, and an OnBoard Survey showing a significant number of clubs running OnBoard because of its positive impact in the local community, OnBoard had to reflect what people now want from a sport and be repositioned as able to achieve these outcomes.

Grasmere Primary in the Lake District is one school that has seen sailing have such an impact on its pupils that they have made it one of their extracurricular activities.

Headteacher Jo Goode said: “We have children who it has absolutely transformed. They feel a sense of achievement from doing something on their own and it gives them greater confidence, which is reflected in the classroom, even, for example, not being afraid to ask for help or put their hand up and answer a question.

“Sailing changes so fast and it teaches them how to read a situation and deal with problems from an early age. That can be in pairs and communicating to patiently solve problems together or as an individual listening to instructions and carrying them out. These are skills that constantly feed into academic learning and later life.

“Many children say being on the water is the first time in their lives they have felt freedom like it. There are no mums and dads telling them what to do, it is all on them. The adrenaline and independence they get from being in control and making their own decisions is amazing.”

Future of our sport

Alistair concludes: “OnBoard is crucial in providing the foundation for the future of our sport. This new approach enables us to share the real value of sailing. It is a change in mindset, but it is an exciting opportunity for people to see sailing for the sport we know it to be and for clubs and centres to benefit too.”

The OnBoard website has all the information you need to get involved with OnBoard whether you are a teacher, parent or a sailing venue.