Attracting new members on the water with an innovative Crew Pool project

Originally introduced to retain newer members, and address a drop in members owning boats, the Club identified a gap in suitable crews available in the membership to sail with skippers with adequate skills or experience. It began with the initial aim of trying to get single handed boat owners and a few of the Club’s non-boat owning members to get together for the benefit of both, particularly as some of the single handers would not go out alone and, at the same time, there were a few existing members who for one reason or another no longer had a boat. During the early years, the Club found that demand was there for people wanting to learn to sail and a personal development programme was put into place for prospective sailors, enabling anyone of any ability to participate.

Phill Barnes, who was Commodore at Shotley Point Yacht Club at the inception of the project, explains what a difference the project has made since then, and the Club’s next steps:

“We decided to take on a small number of complete novices and expose them to going out to sea on a large cruising yacht. Of that original group at least three went on to complete RYA Competent Crew and Day Skipper practical and Theory with the Sea School in the marina.

“Over the following years we have developed an excellent working relationship with that Sea School (Suffolk Coast Sailing) and always recommend them to newcomers.

“We also noticed a good number of new owners joining the Club because there was a pool of experienced crew available. Some owner skippers don’t have the time to train crew so the attraction was there in the form of a ready-made crew member.”

The number of Crew Pool members grew steadily and the Club began to see people with experience and even RYA Day and RYA Coastal Skipper qualifications.

Phill recalls one instance which had an impact on the development of the project: “One person arrived with massive experience of skippering the Scout Adventurer boats out of Ipswich and had RYA Yachtmaster Offshore and relevant Cruising Instructor qualification. On occasions, when time allows, he is able to crew with an owner who is getting used to a new boat. He also runs Winter workshops which is another innovation.

“The Winter Workshops have become a key part of our off-season activities and keep the Club going when there is no sailing or cruises. Many of the attendees are experienced skippers who see the sessions as a good way to polish up skills and knowledge which may have become a bit stale over the years with lack of use. One good example of the sort of subject we undertake is the reading and interpretation of synoptic charts, a skill which needs constant practise to master.”

The Club now has three Crew Pool members on its committee, each having a different role, including the Club’s Secretary, who was one of the first complete novices eight years ago and is now a very competent skipper in her own right.

Phill concludes: “We have tried to be as open and welcoming as possible to all, as it is impossible to tell who is going to take to Cruising until they try it. This has proven to be one of the better ways we have been able to find new members.

“The Crew Pool project has matured into a completely new part of our clubs offer and has been part of the club’s rejuvenation and looks set to go on for a long time over the future.

“We are always looking for new and inventive ways to recruit new members and keep the club lively and relevant. The good thing is that The Crew Pool project has opened up the membership’s minds to new ideas and has shown them that innovation can be very beneficial to all.”

For more information about Shotley Point Yacht Club visit https://shotleypointyc.org/ or for more information about how to get out on the water in the East Region, visit https://www.rya.org.uk/start-boating

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