Posted: Sun, 08 Apr 2018 09:30
Leicestershire and Rutland Youth Sailing Association (LRYSA) moved to Watermead Country Park from its previous Bosworth Water Park base early last year. Since then the number of local youngsters and people with disabilities getting afloat with LRYSA has swelled by 70%.
As a not-for-profit organisation run by 27 volunteers, LRYSA has over 50 boats for adults and kids to use, so people don't need to own one, while being set up in such a way that language, religion, culture or disability don't present barriers to sailing.
LRYSA draws from communities around St Michael's Estate, Braunstone, Saffron Lane and New Parks as well as Hinckley, Barwell and Earl Shilton, and works with such organisations as Sketchley School and Forest House for pupils with autism, Mosaic: Shaping Disability Services and the University of the Third Age plus local Scouts, schools and Sea Cadets, often through Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre and Beaumanor Hall.
Jill Magee, LRYSA Secretary, explains why the move has had such an impact: "It offers such varied yet affordable opportunities, combined with the high standard of instruction and experience that comes from the charity having run for over 50 years.
"First and foremost we understand individual needs. For example, a young Muslim boy who has to attend his temple at the same time as sailing on Saturday will always be welcomed afterwards; being late isn't an issue.
"We provide the chance to progress beyond learning to sail, particularly with the juniors. They can develop higher skill levels, learn to race, join our LRYSA racing team that competes nationally and also train as RYA instructors and RYA qualified powerboat drivers from the age of 16. This can create career opportunities."
LRYSA use visual methods to help break down language barriers while social events are catered so there is a selection of food for all cultures. Meanwhile, working with Mosaic: Shaping Disability Services, in the past year LRYSA has trained more volunteers in Disability Awareness Training, plus in using the hoists and First Aid. This means they will be able to offer two Sailability sessions a week this year, instead of one.
Since moving to John Merricks Lake, LRYSA have erected new gates, fencing and a Portakabin, from which they are running operations, with grant support from the Hinckley and Bosworth Commissioning Fund, the John Merricks Sailing Trust and The Shires Community Grant through the Leicestershire Forum. Now with Charnwood Council planning permission secured to build a single-storey clubhouse, it's all fundraising systems go.
Jill added: "Sailing does so much beyond the skill of making a boat move. It promotes physical and mental health and wellbeing outdoors, creates social bonds that overcome loneliness and isolation, gives people the chance to gain qualifications and, most of all, builds confidence and a sense of achievement that goes way beyond the water.
"The planning permission covers a classroom, changing rooms, showers and toilets including disabled facilities, kitchen, and storage. Once complete we can increase our student base and offer more activities, while having full disabled access will enable us to increase the number of individuals and groups we can support. Other lake users can use the facilities too to make it a proper community resource."
Anyone can try sailing at LRYSA on Saturday 5 May and Saturday 12 May (10am-3pm) as part of the month-long, national RYA Push The Boat Out 'have a go' festival. LRYSA is a recognised RYA Training Centre, meaning it conforms to the highest standards of safety and quality.
Source and Image: (RYA, 2018)