South Staffs Burgee
South Staffordshire Sailing Club
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The biggest hook for the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship for clubs has always arguably been the chance to win a new RIB for the club.

But for many clubs with no "powerboating" background this is too often seen as an unobtainable, something that's too difficult to implement, something their kids couldn't win.

Well did you know last year's national 8-12 years Honda RYA Youth RIB champion, Jamie Paterson, had never entered the competition before? And the national 13-16 years winner, South Staffs SC's Kamila Czartolomna, was competing for the first time in the older age-group having twice competed as an 8-12 years driver.

Thanks to Kamila's win South Staffs have added a Highfield 460 RIB with a Honda BF50 engine - about £13,000 worth of new, top of the range kit - to their support boat fleet for the coming season. And who couldn't do with that?

This year's RYA West Midlands Regional Final takes place at South Staffs SC on Saturday 2 May with the East Midlands Final at Girton SC on Saturday 27 June.

Robin Harper, who helps run the Honda Youth RIB programme at South Staffs SC, explains how they make it work.

1) Why does the club enter the Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship?

We have always believed allowing our juniors to be able to drive powerboats with very strict rules applied would only bring only benefits to our club. 

2) How was this greeted by the membership?

It wasn't universally popular with reasons including we are a sailing not powerboating club, kids will wreck the boats and engines and we aren't allowed to race powerboats on our water. We understood these concerns but, after careful consideration, still felt the pros would outweigh any potential cons. 

3) How has this played out in reality?

All juniors who have taken part have more than proved themselves and the need for the HYR event. They are always accompanied by an instructor and are taught to raise and lower the engine if the water level is low. The HYR isn't a race, it's about manoeuvres. A smooth driver will beat a fast and erratic driver every time. To date, we have gained two excellent PB Instructors and many more junior DIs, all continuing to support the club.

4) How many kids take part at your club?

We want every junior to have the chance to drive but the reality is we couldn't handle the numbers of juniors we could get. So we advertise we are holding a junior Powerboat Level 1 Day but with these very strict caveats attached. Participants must:

  • Fall into one of the two HYR age groups
  • Be paid up club members and active sailors
  • Be able to attend both the Regional and, if they qualify, the National Finals in Southampton at their own costs

Also any junior not doing or listening to what they are being told will be returned to shore immediately – this has never happened.

This approach has always reduced our numbers to a more than manageable figure. The most we have ever was 17 juniors of both age-groups but usually runs at about 6 in total.

5) How do you run your club heats?

We run the morning as a full PB1 session. Safety topics are paramount and the driving is very low key. How to start/stop the engine, engage gears, steer round a set of marks etc. We then get them to navigate a round a set Slalom course, but not the RIB Challenge course! We do encourage them to operate the throttle. 

Throughout this session, our instructors make notes and score. We're looking for budding PB Instructors, not a speed freak! Winning the HYR has never been our aim, all we want is to get the kids out safely and give them this great opportunity. Two candidates from each age-group is then put forwards to train for the Regional Finals.

6) What does that training entail?

It's all very low key. Teaching and perfecting boat control while it does include fast planing work from time to time. Most training is half hour before sailing on a Sunday or a Wednesday evening. 

We don't use a mock-up of the actual HYR course until about four weeks prior to the regional final. We then hold another half/full-day on a Saturday for final practice. It's very noticeable at this stage the kids have found their own comfort speed. Up to this year we've used, one or both club RIBs but this year they will use the new Highfield.

7) Have you had any issues with insurance?

We are insured under the RYA approved scheme with Gallagher Heath as brokers. Any junior can drive the powerboats for training and practice etc provided RYA guidelines are adhered to. They do place a restriction against powerboats being used for safety duty only to be driven by over 18s or by over 16s but accompanied by an over 18 suitably qualified or competent. Safety boat drivers should be RYA level 2 qualified. So for HYR purposes juniors can drive as long as for practice etc, and not safety boat duty, but they must be supervised. You should ask your insurance company for written confirmation. 

8) So running HYR activity isn't as hard as some clubs fear?

If you use a low key approach it's not a problem. Just spend 10mins here and there between races and lunchtime. Pace yourself out so all the kids get a chance, and most of all, if you promise a junior they can, then please let them. Holding a session is no hard task. We're all kids at heart and they thrive on it. Like sailing, keep it fun but hammer home that safety topic at all times. 

9) How has Kamila winning the new boat helped the club with its activities this year?

We have run a couple of junior sessions using the new RIB and the kids love it. We're using Kamila for talks and assisting in the boats plus Mark Flemming and Ed Dutton, both past competitors and now PBIs, so the kids can relate easily to them. The future looks bright with these youngsters getting older and starting to become safety boat drivers, PB Instructors, sailing Instructors and race coaches. They just ooze enthusiasm and their skills rub off to everyone around. 


Steve Troke, RYA West Midlands HYR Regional Organiser:

"To all the clubs out there who have not entered a candidate(s) for this year's events, please think again. It is worthwhile, as you can see from South Staffs' experience. 

"The reality is you will probably get nowhere your first year but you will have sown the seed and done the hard part of breaking down the barriers and perceptions and generating interest among your juniors. 

"Over the next 12 months, with low key training, who knows what your juniors can achieve and it will give you a good, grounding for sound safe drivers of the future.

"There are over 100 sailing clubs across the West and East Midlands, and even more if you bring in the river cruising clubs. If every club entered just one candidate in each age group – WHOOOOOaaaa! – WHAT a competition that would be!"

Michelle Evans - 06th March 2015

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