PIRATES’ CLUB, REGATTA CLUB AND ALL THAT LARK…

With the end of the season fast approaching, it seems a good time for a review and update of the junior sailing season and the plans ahead. It has certainly been a busy season, with lots going on!

The RYA Sailing courses have been very successful under the expert guidance of our Senior Instructor, Jennifer Whittaker and her team of Dinghy and Assistant Instructors, with a weekly uptake rate averaging in excess of eighty percent over the summer. These courses are not only hugely important for the future of our club, bringing in as they do young sailors from far and wide, but they also contribute to the club’s bottom line as well. Another point of interest is the fact that we now have a sizeable group of “home grown” Assistant Instructors as well as a few RYA qualified Dinghy instructors. Many of these young sailors progressed through from last year’s highly successful Winter Sunday Sailing program, organised by Vice Commodore Michael Meharg and Hon. Cadet Instructor George King and ably assisted by the RNIYC Rescue team plus an increasing number of parents who have chosen to actively participate – a fantastic effort by all concerned and one that is showing great results. Thanks to all concerned!

Many members have commented on the buzz and atmosphere created by Pirates’ Club on Tuesday evenings, with anywhere between thirty and seventy six(!) young sailors turning up to sail and socialise, with a little bit of formal instruction thrown in for good measure. The benefits of Pirates’ Club are frequently underestimated, but the program led directly to the Sunday Sailing scheme last Winter – at the request of the kids themselves – and this in turn led to the progression of about twenty young sailors to become Assistant instructors and also to move up into racing. But perhaps the most important aspect of Pirates’ is that the kids really want to come back sailing!

Mention at this point must go to Lauren McDowell, who not only helped teach some of our less experienced Pirates, but also honed her racing skills with expert and very welcome tutelage from Greg Bell and Richard Ramsey and has recently been competing successfully in the UK Topper Nationals in Wales. Well done Lauren and a big thank you to Greg and Richard for their expertise.

Regatta Club has also been a great success this season, with the inaugural BBQ at Helens Bay beach attracting over ninety young sailors from BYC, DSC, HYC and RNIYC. A huge thank you to all those who took part or volunteered in what was a major logistical exercise. The sun shone, the barbecued food was delicious and the kids had a ball on the beach. A big thanks to Belfast Coastguard and the Bangor RNLI boat who both came by to say hello and keep an eye on the proceedings. When the time came to sail home, the day was rounded off not so politely by a thirty five knot squall which flattened half of our fairly substantial fleet of sailing dinghies. The Rescue Team did us proud, swinging into action and lifting the kids out of the water as a priority and returning them safely to shore or on board the mothership, before returning to clear up any remaining capsized boats along with Bangor RNLI who were in the area and were invited to assist.

It is a tribute to the combined Rescue Team from DSC, HYC and RNIYC as well as the RNLI that the whole event passed without any major drama other than being an even more memorable day out as far as the kids were concerned – thank you again!

There are still two Regattas to go, at HYC (easy to get to) on the 26th August and DSC (a little more challenging) on the 2nd September. The intention is to try and attend both, as these are the last two Regatta events of the season. It is planned that our junior sailors will take part in a last Pirates’ Regatta on Saturday 9th September at the RNIYC Closing Day Menagerie Race, where it is hoped we will get a big turn out to end the season.

Following a short break, it is planned to resume the Winter Sunday Sailing program in early October to provide our young sailors with ongoing training and experience. This will continue until the weekend before Christmas and is highly recommended!

Finally, some exciting news only recently in: following the success of our RNIYC junior sailing initiatives and the efforts of George King and Michael Meharg and their team of volunteers to drive it forward, we have been approached by the Ulster Topper Squad with a view to providing a base for their Winter Training schedule on Saturdays, something we are all very pleased about indeed! Not only that, but Russ McGovern has asked to bring the Irish Olympic Laser Squad to train at RNIYC for ten days around Hallowe’en, a real coup for our Club and a great aspirational example for our young sailors. All in all, a most exciting “off season” to look forward to!

Needless to say, it could not and would not happen without our team of volunteers and parents and our willing and enthusiastic young sailors. Thank you to all of you who got involved – a fantastic effort!

If you or your kids would like to get involved either as participants or volunteers, please email the office and mark it for the attention of George King or Michael Meharg so Mark can pass it on.

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Pirates Club was formed in 2011 with the intention of encouraging those cadets who took part in the RYA Summer Sailing Courses but did little or no sailing after that. The Club aims to further develop the sailing skills of our younger sailors within a fun environment.

Pirates Club is a supervised sailing evening for junior sailors aged 8 and over. An RYA certified dinghy instructor and rescue facilities are in attendance. This sailing IS NOT an RYA training course.

Pirates Club meet on Tuesday evenings (as part of the RYA Bright Night Sailing Initiative) between 6-8pm in the summer. Where weather permits activities will normally be water based though a poor weather programme can be put in place at short notice covering other essential sailing skills and knowledge.