How the RYA is encouraging inclusivity and diversity on water

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RYA Black History Month ()

From the intricacies of navigation to the exhilaration of coping with the open sea, there is so much to gain from being on the water and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is working to ensure more people reap the sport’s benefits.

As the first UK governing body to achieve the advanced level of the Equality Standard for Sport, the RYA has reaffirmed its commitment to equality this year and has started to develop a new strategy that will increase diversity in all forms of boating in the long term.

This Black History Month, the Alliance has been sharing good practice stories from our members to help the sector become more accessible and inclusive.

To continue our series, the RYA tell us more about their new strategy and the brilliant work they are doing to welcome more communities to the water.

Background on the project

Research and analysis of the current diversity and equality within the RYA community began earlier this year. The research involved analysing a variety of representative data such as, RYA membership, members of the RYA Board, surveyed boating participants, volunteers and instructors.

The data collated the gender, age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and mental health of those that we held data for. This helped us to evaluate the current range of diversity in boating.

The data showed that a disproportionate amount of people that are involved with boating in various capacities identified as being of white British ethnicity.

Just 9% of those surveyed in 2019 were from a non-white ethnic group. Participation from women in boating was also low, just 37% of club members identified as a woman and only 10% of those surveyed volunteered as a race official.  

The overview of the RYA Diversity Strategy is for all boating activities to be as accessible, diverse and welcoming to as many participants as possible. The outcome of the Strategy will affect all levels of the sport, from how the RYA recruit staff at head office, the management of RYA communities, as well as how boating develops and is perceived on a national level.   

How did you get it off the ground?

We are still in the early stages of developing the RYA Diversity Strategy. Currently we are focused on listening to the real-life experiences of RYA members and others from within the boating community.

We are pleased to be working with Professor Kevin Hylton who is a renowned voice in diversity in sport. Kevin facilitated our first Ethnicity in Boating Focus Group in early October, which delivered honest and thoughtful discussions from each of the participants, including feelings towards identity, personal barriers to sport as well as experiences with instructors, coaches and other participants.

Internally, we have established a steering group for the Strategy which includes RYA board members and colleagues from across the organisation. It is important to us that the objectives of the Strategy reflect the feelings of not only the RYA but also the wider boating community.  

RYA Focus Group ()

Outcomes of the project so far

We are only at the beginning of our journey to develop new initiatives and pathways to welcome new people to the water and provide them with the opportunity for a lifelong enjoyment of boating.

Our next steps are to continue engaging with current members of the boating community, to then use the information and feedback that we have received to develop tangible objectives for the Strategy which will then be reflected in the RYA Diversity Strategy’s action plan.