How to build a sailing community

At Glenmore Sailing Club in Calgary, you don’t even need your own sailboat to be a member. It offers special programs for people who are ex-military, has a unique partnership with the Scouts, and works every day to make their operation as inclusive as possible. This is all a part of implementing the Long-Term Sailor Development framework into their operation, as laid out by Sport for Life.

“The mandate of our club has really shifted from being a club for people with their own sailboats to a community club,” says board member Nollind van Bryce.

“Now anyone can come down to the club and have access to club assets, as long as they have their CANSail 2 or equivalent experience.”

Glenmore recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. It has hosted a robust children’s program for some time, but the vast majority of its members are 40-plus. The gap in between is where the club decided to funnel its attention as it strategized the best ways to attract new members. It quickly became apparent that collaborations with other institutions would be key, and the club would have to custom design its program to suit its community.

“We’ve done a look at the groups and subsets of people who are less inclined to engage with us, and unfortunately the reality is sailing isn’t well populated with female sailors,” he says.

“We’re filling that gap in with specific efforts to partner with other organizations and see about increasing the number of female sailors.”

Glenmore plans to offer a new program called Women, Wind and Wine in which women were given a chance at the tiller while looking forward to a date with the sommelier afterwards. 

As the club kept looking for new niches, it made some surprising finds. In Calgary, it turned out, there were 1700 veteran families.

“We looked at that and decided to reach out to that community. We asked them ‘are you interested in sailing?’ and they came back with ‘maybe’, so we developed a free program for them,” van Bryce says.

Glenmore also has partnership with the Duke of Edinburgh Award, KidSport Calgary, and three post-secondary institutions. These partnerships were key in taking the operation to the next level, according to van Bryce. They wanted to reach people they hadn’t successfully engaged, and this was the best way to make that happen.

The club has been devoted to the Sport for Life quality sport framework throughout this process, partially because the City of Calgary has adopted it as a policy, and van Bryce believes having that quality sport pathway laid out gave them the inspiration they needed to keep their club active, inclusive, and fun.

“The thing that’s coming from all of this is the proximity we’re graining with other groups and the opportunities that come with that. We’re all being part of the same community, and we’re developing it: a sailing community.”

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