Whatever your view of the RYA, most people will eye the departure of chief executive Rod Carr with regret.
Rod has been at the helm for the last ten years and he has been highly regarded as an effective ambassador for the many branches of recreational boating that we embrace.
Having been there for 28 year, he has also played a substantial part in shaping the RYA into what it is today.
It has grown from a staff of 40 with a complicated committee structure, to an organisation that employs 160 people working to the policies set by a smaller number of expert groups who oversee one of the most respected training programmes in the world, and run the most successful sailing team in the history of the sport.
During Rod’s tenure, the RYA has also grown to become the most prolific nautical publishing company in the UK.
We caught up with Rod as he was helping new CEO, Sarah Treseder get her feet under the desk. He looked back to the early days when he was poached from the old National Sailing Centre in Cowes and appointed as Olympic coach.
“Funnily enough, I actually refused to work for the RYA to start with,” he recalled, “The RYA had gone through two Olympic coaches previously who hadn’t lasted more than a year.
“Following the 1980 Olympic games when no sailing team was sent, Olympic sailing was at a low ebb. I had a young family and was unwilling to risk it but fortunately, the National Sailing Centre loaned me to the RYA and I decide to give it a go.”
The rest is history and over two decades after this shaky start, Rod finally steps down having spent 18 years working as Olympic Coach, Racing Manager and Performance Director and a further decade at the helm of the RYA.
“Obviously I am looking forward to retiring but I do look back on my work at the RYA with pride,” he said, “From my days as Olympic Coach in the 80’s, I have seen us go from a team that regularly got beaten in the medal table and left in a dominant position in 2008. “Obviously, that has a lot to do with lots of committed people apart from me, not to mention lottery funding, but I did play a part in drawing up the framework upon which success has been built and I’m happy with my contribution.”
In 2000, Rod was appointed Deputy Chef de Mission for the entire Team GB at the Olympics and with the team gearing up for Sydney, then RYA Secretary General Robin Duchesne passed away and Rod was asked to take on the job. He recalls: “It was awkward, partly due to the sad and sudden way in which the vacancy came up but also because I was about to go to Sydney.
“Thankfully, the then Training Manager Bill Anderson agreed to step in temporarily and I was able to take charge on the team’s return from Sydney.”
Since then, Rod has battled gamely with the many challenges that come with being the CEO of the governing body of sailing. He realised that for the organisation to flourish, it needed to move from their rather ramshackle offices in Eastleigh. With help from an expert group, he set about relocating to the Hamble.
“I’m a great believer in the theory that people need to work in a professional environment if they are going to maintain a professional attitude,” he said.
Beyond this Rod also tackled the implementation of a proper pay structure for staff and then set to work on looking at the overall strategy of the RYA by commissioning the McKinsey Report.
Rod explained: “Basically I have tried to focus on customer care both to members and clubs. I also wanted to make the RYA more relevant to the average boater and willing to nail its colours to the mast on a particular subject, accepting that whatever stance you take, you are always going to upset someone.
“In addition I wanted to make the organisation more commercial where this was possible. This has involved treading a very fine line between being essentially a not –for-profit association and appearing overly commercial but in terms of RYA Publications, I think we’ve been pretty successful in achieving that.
And Rod added: “In terms of regrets, I guess not finding a way of getting more women in to the sport, particularly in coaching and sport management roles, has always bothered me and also not being able to give more support to some of the smaller dinghy clubs to maintain regular club racing has been a frustration.”
That aside, Rod leaves the organisation in good health and intends to spend his retirement cruising new shores on his 38-foot catamaran well away from dealing with the recurring issue of ever greater regulation of sailing.
“I will look back fondly on my years at the RYA,” he said, “In terms of the big achievements, anything to do with our Olympic team obviously has a special resonance for me but also the setting up of the OnBoard Programme, which has introduced hundreds of thousands of kids to sailing over the last five years, is a huge source of pride.
“To me, this goes right to the heart of the RYA’s ethos.”