Volunteers from Cowes Sailability Club joined representatives from other Sailability clubs nationwide at the annual RYA Sailability Conference.

Pictured left to right: Jenny Girvin-Baker, Cowes Sailability Club, Bizzy Geernaert-Davies, Cowes Sailability Club, Joff McGill, RYA Sailability Manager, Trish Rooke, Cowes Sailability Club.

Three volunteers from Cowes Sailability Club travelled to Bedfordshire in February to attend the annual RYA Sailability Conference.  The event gave them the opportunity to meet representatives from other Sailability clubs around the country, share experiences and pick up tips about how to deliver rewarding opportunities for people with disabilities.

Jenny Girvin-Baker, who was recently appointed as the Members Representative on the Cowes Sailability Club committee, attended the conference for the first time.  “I really enjoyed meeting people from other Sailability clubs, and the workshops were very interesting,” she says.  “The workshop on sailing with deaf people was particularly inspiring, and it has spurred me on to learn sign language, so that I can help deaf people on the Isle of Wight who want to try sailing and boating.”

“I also found the workshop on mental health very uplifting and was encouraged by the stories I heard,” she adds.  “Boating activities can make a real difference to the lives of people who have mental health conditions.”

Bizzy Geernaert-Davies, who was also a first-timer at the RYA Sailability conference, says: “The event was very informative and I learned so much.  I didn’t realise before how varied Sailability clubs are and what a diverse range of accessible activities are available around the country.”

“At Cowes Sailability Club, we rely heavily on the commitment, energy and enthusiasm of a growing team of volunteers,” she continues.  “I attended a workshop on the 21st century volunteer and gained lots of really useful information about how to recruit, retain, reward and recognise volunteers.”

Trish Rooke, Fundraising Officer at Cowes Sailability Club, says, “I’m really glad that Jenny and Bizzy enjoyed their first time at the RYA Sailability Conference.  Every time I go, I find the event really inspiring.  It is always compelling to hear the challenges that some people face and the extraordinary lengths that volunteers at Sailability clubs go to, to give people with disabilities the opportunity to go sailing.”

The conference took place at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire on 15th February 2020 and was attended by 184 delegates in total, representing 60 Sailability sites across the country.