Volvo RYA Keelboat programme

Harriet Prest looks at how year one has gone so far
With Olympic and youth programs both working well, the RYA last year recognised a gap in their development programs for up and coming sailors wishing to take up keel boat racing. To rectify this the Volvo RYA Keelboat Program was launched at London Boat Show to help those wishing to make the transition into big boats, a few of whom ultimately might end up racing in events such as the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race. Such schemes have proved invaluable abroad, most notably in New Zealand (see our interview with the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron’s Harold Bennett). Between February and July this year a number of three day training sessions were held at Rutland and Weymouth which were open to all - not just those looking to become part of the squad. “We get people there who want to learn about keelboat sailing and we take them through a whole load of exercises and classroom stuff covering all aspects of keel boat racing,” explains RYA Racing Services Manager Dave Atkinson, who runs the program. The training over these three day weekends takes place both on the water aboard the RYA’s fleet of Beneteau First Class 8s and in the classroom. "The first morning is usually an on the water assessment of who we have," says Atkinson. "We let them sail with who they want to sail with so we get an idea of their capabilities. We do basic tacking, gybing and spinnaker work on the water. Then we start rotating the crews around. "We try to get everyone on the boats doing every job on board. We have people who have only ever steered and have never been up the sharp end, so we put them on the sharp end and it improves their skills because they then become aware