2018 A Year in Review
Summer comes to an end, glorious sunshine is replaced with frosty mornings, the nights draw in. Christmas and New Year are in the rear view mirror. Here at the Boating Base, it gives us a brief chance to catch our breath, take stock and look back at what we have accomplished over the past year, before the 2019 season begins in a matter of weeks.
As you will all remember last year we had a long winter where some of the harshest storms from Eastern Europe swept onto our shores blanketing the country in snow and ice. This didn’t stop our members or any of the school groups from getting on the water and enjoying themselves. With our Slalom and Sprint training regime in full swing, gearing up and readying our young athletes for the youth games in May.
The season started off fast in April, faster than many expected with numbers well up on previous years, full of youth members, old and new, ready to enjoy all forms of water activities in the surprisingly warm spring weather. After securing funding through BBC Children in need and coinciding with the season’s start, two new school groups joined us; Queen Elizabeth 2 Jubilee School and College park school, both providing schooling for children with special educational needs.
They have become a regular fixture throughout the year. The students and instructors have formed a real bond; both thoroughly enjoy the learning opportunity they otherwise would not experience. We have gained RYA Sailability recognition, allowing us to run the Powerability scheme, helping to make the syllabus available for all.
The Upper Decker’s - our over 50’s group - braved the winter and really kicked into another gear with the warmer weather. Enjoying both the powerboat tuition and kayaking sessions and always willing to volunteer and lend a hand to help run our larger events.
Grey Coat Hospital school who have been visiting WBB for over 20 years, continued to send classes of students along for PE kayaking lessons. Many of the students returning from the previous year when they were bitten by the watersports bug!
As the year progressed, training for the London Youth Games picked up in pace.
The kayak team once again competed at Royal Albert Dock Regatta Centre; the team covered all age groups with a wide array of experience levels. The team put in a solid performance with Lucas pushing himself up to third place and winning a bronze medal in the slalom and narrowly missing out on another medal in the sprint event. The team placed 7th overall in both Slalom and Sprint. Our highest ever finish in the sprint category.
Building on a high from the LYG 2017, where WBB sailing squad finished in 3rd place and awarded team Bronze. The first time Westminster has ever won a team medal in Sailing in the 40 year history of the London Youth Games. What a legacy to follow in 2018...
What a weekend! After a fantastic two days of competitive racing, team Westminster placed 5th out of 33 boroughs competing in 9/10 classes at the LYG Sailing regatta. (We entered all 10 but sadly our Topper Female racer was unwell and unable to attend).
Our grass roots sailing squad triumphed in challenging conditions, overcame personal hurdles, showed exceptional team ethic, learned so much and most importantly, had fun!
Our individual bronze medalists: Amelia (laser radial F), Timur (Topper 4.2 M), Benjamin & Grace (Hansa 303) Mae Webster won the 'Respect the Games' award for her dedication and team spirit, despite physical pain due to juvenile arthritis.
Huge congratulations to the whole team. We're so proud of you all!
A big thank you to: Squad racers, WBB volunteers, WBB support instructors, parents & family, WCC, RYA, schools and volunteers. We couldn’t have done it without you!
It wasn’t just the youth members getting involved with offsite activities. The upper deckers and adult members moved further afield to explore the upper reaches of the Thames. A group of intrepid kayakers went on an exciting weekend trip from Lechlade to Tadpole bridge. A journey of some twenty miles involving bushwhacking through reeds, diving under fallen trees, avoiding hordes of swans, navigating locks and enjoying the exciting & beautiful wildlife that surrounds the local area.
After such exciting events the school groups, youth sessions, upper deckers, adult users and courses continued unabated, the glorious sunshine was enjoyed by all. Many took the opportunity to learn new skills and taking their sporting prowess to the next level.
As the summer holidays approached so to did the highlights of the year for many of our youth members – The kayaking and Sailing away trips!
Now in its thirteenth year the annual trip to St Pierre De Beouf in the south of France took place.
We had an excellent mix of students this year, many first timers and some with years of experience under their belt. With a trip of this nature, success is not built by one individual or instructor, it is built by the whole group pulling together and working well as a team. Despite some trying times (The minibus break down on route, costing us a day on the water) the trip was a huge success.
The youth members worked well together, really pushing themselves and encouraging each other. They all did exceedingly well. Congratulations to Izzy & Leo for winning the bravest paddler award despite being the youngest in the group. They both threw themselves in and developed skills well beyond their years.
The annual youth sailing trip, once again at UKSA on the Isle of Wight, became a highlight of the year for eleven of our young sailors. We would leave you with a full review but we think the words of our youth members speak for themselves.
Apart from the exciting trips to foreign and not so foreign lands, the courses and general activities continued at the Boating Base throughout the school holidays. We hosted “My Westminster Day”. An open day put on by the Boating Base for local residents. We secured funding through "Street Games" to provide water sports courses for youth from Churchill Gardens Primary Academy who would otherwise not have been able to take part in what we offer here at the base.
Hundreds of youth visits throughout the Summer kept all our instructors busy, churning out qualifications in sailing, power boating and kayaking. As well as the nonstop juggernaught of RYA Powerboat Level 2 courses with students wishing to gain their ICC to hire boats on holiday.
For many years now the adult members have heard excited children talk all year about "France". What is this magical place they hear so much about?! They have wanted to get in on the action for some time. Now in its second year, following a similar format to the youth trips, a van full of kayaks once again departed for France. It was the turn of the adult kayakers!
Providing new challenges for the instructors, you’ll be surprised to learn that adults are harder work ;) This year’s group was a good mix of some of our more mature members and some of the younger element. Most of the group had been on the previous year’s trip, or had gone independently, so they all knew what to expect. They wasted no time and really dived in, all of them massively improving since last year. Feeling more and more comfortable as the week went on in areas of the white water course they would not dare approach the previous year.
A huge thanks to the volunteers who helped to make this trip a reality.
With the summer program over and the school children back from the holidays, we continued with our regular weekly program and school groups until the season began to wind down towards the end of October.
Before then, Westminster Boating Base was fortunate enough to have been nominated three times in two categories at the Active Westminster Awards 2018. The categories being the active club of the year and London youth games.
It was a fantastic night of glitz and glamour at Lords Cricket ground, attended by several of our instructors, also accompanied by a contingent of our youth members representing the broad spectrum of users from the Boating Base. We are immensely proud to announce that we won both categories in which we received nominations.
London Youth Games - Winner - Lucas Mandillas
Lucas has in all but one of the seven years of the London youth games in which he has competed, won a medal in the canoe-slalom or sprint kayaking at the Paddle sports Regatta. Now as one of our young instructors here at the Base, he is focusing on training the next generation of athletes. Lucas is keen to win more medals with them in the future.
The “Westminster Boating Base London youth games Sailing Squad” was highly commended in this category.
Active Club of the Year – Winner - Westminster Boating Base
We are highly delighted to be recognised in this way. It represents all the hard work and dedication put in by the coaching teams and users of our fantastic training centre. Each and every one of you has put something into winning this award and you should all be very proud of what we have achieved as a club here at WBB.
Although we know that the season never truly stops, and maintenance on our boats furiously picks up in pace as we prepare them for another season in the water. The weekly Sunday sessions continue, school groups visit daily and the London Youth Games squads quietly practise, working hard towards achieving the goals they have set themselves.
Don’t let the chilly weather stop you from getting out on the water. We hope to see you all on the water again soon!
Before we go we would just like to share with you a few highlights from our Instructors throughout the year.
A coaching cliché as old as time but the real highlight of the year for me is seeing the progress of the students. Both young and old alike have all worked so hard and right now we have the best core of members that I have ever had anywhere in my coaching career. It’s great to see so many that have a real fire and passion for the sport. The desire to learn, excel and achieve is at an all time high.
The same can be said for our coaches, many of them home grown. Seeing the same desire and passion, helping them develop and start to take charge and teach more and more sessions on their own. To step up and fill gaps and take different approaches with their own unique styles are so great to see. The enthusiasm really rubs off on the staff, members and volunteers here at the Base, A huge thanks to all of them for making the previous year as successful and enjoyable as it was.
Right now we are teaching more students a higher number of advanced skills at a much younger age than we have ever taught before! Getting to be a part of that and push people to achieve things they thought impossible is always going to be a huge part of the reason why I continue to want to do this as a career.
The other highlight for me is the same as it is for many of our kayakers, the annual trips to France for both adult and youth. Both present very different challenges but having the opportunity to put into practise all the skills we learn week in, week out on the flat water throughout the whole year is an experience that I thoroughly enjoy. The culmination of all of the hard work laid out to bare on white water. It cannot be over emphasised as to how important it is to the development of the kayakers and how much they all enjoy it.
This coming season I hope to push the development of the coaches further by offering more courses (the first of which took place in January) and develop the members, increase participation and offer you all a wider range of activities and opportunities within the sport. We’ve lots of exciting things in the pipeline for the coming year and beyond! Getting to implement them and enjoy doing them alongside you all is something I am really looking forward to.
Last season went by in a flash, and what a year it was! We built on last year’s successful youth games team adding a host of new sailors to our squad and gaining many individual medals in the process. The youth sailing is going from strength to strength year on year. I cannot wait to start this year’s training program with the team. We are also hoping to take part in more races as part of the “London youth sailing league”.
The sailing instructor side has been bolstered by many volunteers who I would like to personally thank for all of their help throughout the year. It has been a pleasure working alongside you all. With all the challenges that come with sailing on the tidal Thames, our volunteer safety boat crew and drivers have been invaluable.
We now have several youth sailors who have completed their RYA Powerboat level 2 course and gone on to complete their RYA Assistant Instructor qualification. They help out on sessions and inspire the next generation both on and off the water.
Continuing to develop the skills of the dinghy instructor team this coming season, starting with a residential training weekend. We are also looking to put forward several Instructors to complete their Senior Instructor training followed by an in house training program to develop them further.
This year I’m really looking forward to arranging more offsite activities for our users. Residential trips to Brightlingsea coastal centre for our youth and adult members as well as our now annual youth trip to the Isle of Wight. We also have an exciting new venture for our adult users to access the “Round the Island” race, crewing on a First Echelon Yacht, Montombi.
In April a fleet of demo boats will be arriving for us to test their suitability to add to our fleet this year. I personally cannot wait to try out the RS Neo, RS Zest, RS Tera and the Fusion.
We've got lots of exciting things planned for 2019 and beyond and we hope to see and encourage you all to join us on the river!
Often missed amongst the glamour of the watersports programme are the people in the shadows - behind the scenes that make everything run as it should. For Mike and Pippa it was their first season as permanent employees and they blossomed into their roles of driving the watersports programme forward from the ground up. There was a change of charity Director mid-season bringing new direction and the promise of good things to come in terms of the fundraising effort. It was my first full season as Chief Instructor and all the challenges that brought. We employ many excellent freelance instructors who are significant contributors to the success of WBB and don't forget the administrators either! We've had many volunteers that have stuck with us this season and have been instrumental in backing up the watersports team both with delivery of sessions on the water and with the constant maintenance of equipment. Of course, our trustees and board of management are all volunteers too. We work side by side with the venue team that bring in a substantial proportion of the charity's running costs and sharing a space can be challenging. Providing the youth programme for a token financial sum is a bold challenge and huge task but all these people make it possible - A big THANK YOU. We hope to do even better and even more for 2019!