Greatstone Club Quadruples People Taking Part in Watersports

Published on August 12th, 2014

The Varne Boat Club is celebrating a pivotal year after more than quadrupling the number of people it has got out on the water.

The Greatstone club has launched a new windsurfing and watersports section, encouraging new sailing members in addition to other activities, including SUP’ing and kayaking, as part of its plan to give more local people in the community the chance to try watersports at low cost and become regular participants.

Driven by the club Sailing Captain, a small group of enthusiastic volunteers and with the support of the RYA’s South East Regional Development Team of Sam Rowe and Andy Hooper, The Varne Boat Club has to date given out over 220 free tasters this year (2014) compared to 50 last summer.

The club took part in the RYA’s Push The Boat Out weekend for the first time in May, welcoming more than 100 people each day and giving out 82 free tasters. Eight new members joined in July alone with cadet members paying just £33 per year – or 63p per week – to take advantage of the club’s activities and to use it’s boards, boats, wetsuits and protective equipment.

To support its expansion, the club has raised no less than £30,000 in the last 18 months with all funding coming through local sources. Magnox has been hugely supportive in enabling the club to buy new windsurf equipment and two Topper Topaz dinghies, while a generous donation of over £18,600 came from The Roger De Haan Charitable Trust for more equipment and training. Further funding has come from Waitrose via its Community Matters Scheme and the most recent funding was championed by Kent County Councillor David Baker via a Kent County Council Combined Member Grant Scheme. As well as financial support, the Varne has enjoyed backing from a number of local suppliers offering discounts and advice, including ACTIV at Folkestone, Musto and Topper Dinghies at Ashford.

Mark Rose, Sailing Captain, admits it has been a whirlwind time for the club:  “I retired two years ago and was asked to become the Sailing Captain. When I protested that the club didn’t need a Sailing Captain as it had virtually no sailors, I was told ‘That’s the job!’ We had about three active dinghy sailors and three windsurfers plus an original Mirror Dinghy.

“All the interest we’ve had so far has largely been through local word of mouth; the turnover we had for the RYA Push The Boat Out was absolutely amazing. Two years ago we did not have many young people coming through to keep the club secure for the future, now it’s thriving again. We are making sure we can walk before we can run and consolidation is now very important to secure what we have built up.”

The Varne’s future plans include the appointment of a Sailing Committee and a Club Development Officer. The club is currently in the process of applying for funding to build a new ramp to improve access to and from the water.

The Varne Boat and Social Club was founded in 1966 and its core activities have traditionally included powerboating, jet-skis, water-skiing, fishing, sailing and land yachting. The club also has avery large and active social side.

More information about how to get involved at The Varne Boat and Social Club is available at www.varneboatclub.co.uk

Adapted with thanks from RYA Press Release dated 11 August 2014.