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Wind in their sails

How RYA Scotland are leading the way on equality and inclusion

“Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Sailing chiefs in Scotland are determined to enable as many people as possible to follow Mark Twain’s advice, with equality and inclusion firmly on their agenda.

This is far more than a tick-box exercise. The Royal Yachting Association Scotland team has committed time and energy to setting out the equality standard they support and they are now the first governing body in Scotland to achieve the Advanced Level of the Sports Councils Equality Standard for Sport.

And this won’t be the end of the story. One of RYA Scotland’s standout qualities is their determination to continually improve the opportunities available for everyone to get involved in sailing and boating. They demonstrated this clearly when they continued to make significant progress once they had achieved the Intermediate Level.

It's everyone's responsibility


One of the keys to this success story so far is the recognition across the organisation that achieving equality in sport is everyone’s responsibility, RYA Scotland think of this as “mainstreaming” the issue. By placing equality and inclusion firmly at the heart of the organisation they have changed the narrative that drives the work they do. It is now second nature across the team to consider opportunities for improvement to achieving equality and inclusion.

Equality and inclusion are not additional projects for RYA Scotland, it is part of the way they work. This was clear to the Sports Councils Equality Group panel who commended the RYA on the “attitude to equality … that this is business as normal, not an additional burden”, and the “robust portfolio of evidence, which demonstrates the depth and breadth of their equality work”.

There is no shortage of examples of programmes which demonstrate this commitment. One outstanding example is the Push The Boat Out programme which is also a best practice example of a governing body working with clubs. This programme involved 30 clubs and centres across Scotland that opened their doors to offer opportunities for new people in the local community to get involved - either for free or a discounted price.

The Sailability factor 

Another interesting programme which has been particularly successful in reaching out to disabled sailors is the Sailability programme. RYA Scotland are focused on increasing participation among disabled sailors and they work with a number of partners to help improve accessibility.

Scotland's Sailability centre of excellence in Renfrewshire is a great example of partnership working. It is an education hub which helps clubs across Scotland who want to find out more about how to offer boating to people of any ability along with offering training for club members or instructors who may be volunteering to help a Sailability group.

It’s clear that RYA Scotland won’t rest on their laurels and they have already identified areas for future action and development. In particular, they see the value of continuing to gather data to gain a greater understanding of participants, and challenging external perceptions of the sport, especially among under-represented groups such as ethnic minorities and the LGBT community.

RYA Scotland Chief Executive Officer James Allan commented: “We are delighted to be the first Scottish Governing Body to achieve the Advanced Standard. Gathering the evidence for the assessment confirmed that equality is simply a normal part of the culture across our affiliated clubs and training centres, so this recognition is really about them and how boating embraces everyone.

Only the start

"We still have aspirations for improvements. We know we can do better in many areas and will be working hard to ensure our activities and structures fully reflect the diversity of Scotland’s communities.”

Stewart Harris, Chief Executive of sportscotland, added: “I am delighted that RYA Scotland is the first governing body in Scotland to achieve the advanced level of the equality standard for sport.

"They are an excellent example of an organisation with equality firmly at the top of their priority list and this achievement recognises their contribution to progressing equality in sport.

"Our support and expert resources provided to RYA Scotland have been an example of partnership working at its very best and we look forward to other governing bodies following the lead of RYA Scotland in driving their commitment to equality.”

Reaching the Advanced Level standard of equality for sport is a big achievement and the impact it will have in making sailing and boating accessible is even bigger.

Find out more

If you want to get involved in sailing in Scotland, contact RYA Scotland

Click here for more information on equality in sport.

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