Bowmoor Sailing Club recently hosted a visit by a group of 30 Ukrainian scouts based in London. The hugely successful day of watersports activities was arranged together with a local sea scout unit, thanks to a work connection between James Relph, Bowmoor’s RYA Training Principal, and Ela Czuruk, a Ukrainian working in financial publishing in London.
When they met at a conference in London in March, just as the war had begun in Ukraine, James was struck by Ela’s fundraising presentation explaining that she is a scout leader at 1st London Plast – Ukrainian Scouts in West London, welcoming refugee children into her group. As a former scout leader with the 1st Swindon Sea Scouts himself, James was keen to offer their support, as they are members at Bowmoor.
Ela agreed it would be a great outing, and James quickly got the buy-in of the sailing club, with PBIs, safety boat drivers and members with larger cruisers all volunteering their assistance. The 1st Swindon Sea Scouts organised a cake sale to raise funds to cover the provision of lunch and an evening barbecue, and they collected a massive £800 – enough to pay for the food and make a £600 donation to Ela’s scout group, which they plan to put towards buying some SUP boards
The visit took place on 25 June, in blustery conditions. Ela and fellow scout leader Olha Mukha, who both have watersports experience, were accompanied by eight other leaders. They brought around 30 youngsters aged between 10 and 17 (some of whom had only been in the UK for a few weeks), and were also joined by Yana Vuieva, a professional commercial skipper who recently arrived in the UK with her 11-year-old son, Mark. They were welcomed by 20 Swindon scouts, led by Julie Stevens, and volunteers at Bowmoor SC, and the club provided a mix of Lasers, Picos, paddleboards, kayaks and windsurfers, plus a Drascombe Lugger and another keelboat provided by members.
Another bonus was that the Assistant Military Attaché to Ukraine, based at the nearby Defence Academy, is a member of Bowmoor SC, and came down on the day to help with translation.
James described the visit: “The day was certainly a huge success, even if the language barrier caused some instructing issues at times. We were lucky to have Yana Vuieva join us, and as she is used to yachts and keelboats, it was quite entertaining to put her in a Pico! We have already had a request from the 1st London Plast asking if they could arrange some further sessions including more formal training for some of the leaders.”
Ela added: “We have a mix of kids, some who are Ukrainian living in London, and some who have come from Ukraine very recently because of the war. Fewer than 10 of the scouts had sailed before, and although some were scared to begin with, the weather was great, the water was warm, and they loved it! The refugee children were very determined and persevered, hungry for the experience. Olha and I have created smaller scout units doing different activities, and we aim to get RYA-qualified to be ready for next summer, so that we can teach our young scouts ourselves.”
At the end of the day, some of the children were asked how they enjoyed it. Bohdan Mamchur, 14, said: “It was so exciting.” Yana’s son Mark commented: “I like canoeing and the hot showers!”
“We enjoyed sailing very much, especially flying on the wings,” said Anastasiia Peresunko, 15.
The scouts all agreed they would like to do some more sailing and windsurfing, so the RDOs and SDOs in the SW and London are currently liaising to put them in touch with local clubs.