RYA Community Awards 2006 Nomination for Outstanding Contribution.
ROGER WALTON, SENIOR INSTRUCTOR AT BTYC SAILSPORTS
It's not too hard for amateur sailing clubs which are also RYA Centres to attract people who want to learn. Activity holidays, cheap flights to warm seas, a pay-and-play culture - all mean there is a stream of interest in courses that volunteer-staffed clubs can offer.
What is hard is keeping these newcomers as longer term club members, so growing the active core of racers, trainers and helpers without whom clubs die. And what's perhaps hardest of all is finding existing members to staff, on a regular basis, whatever schemes a club may devise to encourage membership retention.
BTYC's been lucky. Seven years ago, it acquired a secret weapon ... Well, not so secret: he's a big presence, with a voice to match.
Roger Walton joined us as a novice in 1999. An ex-diver, he was used to water, boats and weather; a builder by trade, he is active and practical. He is also unstoppable. Within 3 years he was a dinghy instructor, and two years later went for and got SI. And he took over Saturday mornings.
Our club training is on summer Thursday evenings. This gets people to basic competence. Once they can sail competently without an instructor in the boat, they can join Plain Sailing, our Saturday morning improver sessions. Here instructors in powerboats give them the kind of confidence- and ability-building practice that turns them into properly independent sailors. Then, to move them from sailing as non-contact to near-contact sport, in the autumn Plain Sailing gives way to Novice Racing training and practice.
Roger has led both these programmes for the last four years, organising, demonstrating, encouraging.
The results? Some 30 of his trainees now race with us on a regular basis, and eight of them have bought their own boats, growing the total racing fleet. We also have a stream of people coming through as AIs, safety-boat drivers, future instructors and SIs. We've even had more people standing for committee than there were places to fill.
Roger's not the only one involved - other instructors and helpers have played their parts - but it was he who turned the Saturday morning sessions into the institutions they've become. And now he's added youth to the list, overseeing the basic training slot for young people (age 8 and over) offered by our inter-club Harp Young Sailors group.
Roger also runs Fast Track sessions, SIs our RYA Start Racing courses, instructs on any other courses he's asked to help on, staffs our various coastal initiatives, sails the South-East Travellers series and Nationals (and wins races), and has a life - house, garden, family, other interests - which somehow gets fitted in.
If you want your newcomers to commit to the sport of sailing, you have to demonstrate commitment, and prove the value of it. Roger does that, and it's in no small way thanks to his efforts that BTYC as a club seems to be bucking the trend of falling core membership.
James Stafford, Commodore and Senior Instructor
on behalf of
Lesley Kaye, Training Officer and Senior Instructor
Tamasin Cole, Senior Instructor
Seamus O'Connell, Senior Instructor
Mick Dobson, Principal