Barra and its people are shaped by sea where many of us earn our livelihood. Our club plays an integral part in giving our young people the skills and confidence to understand and respect the marine environment. The club offers kayaking, windsurfing and sailing throughout the summer months.
Barra Watersports Club is a voluntary organisation with 110 members, of which 80 are young people aged between 8 and 16 years old. This constitutes 86% of total school roll between ages 8 and 16, and nearly 10% of total island population.
During the last five years we have raised enough money to put fourteen local people through RYA windsurfing and sailing instructor courses. The investment is rewarded when the instructors return to help deliver our courses.
It works well because volunteers make these activities happen. We are grateful to the RYA accredited local authority, CnES who part fund our visiting senior instructors.
In 2014, 150 and 40 adult places were taken up in week long courses along with regular weekend sessions throughout the summer. By running the club with volunteers we are able to keep our charges at an affordable level. This would not be possible without our dedicated helpers.
Windsurfing shows the widest age range, with participants from 3 to 60 years young! The windsurfing takes place on Loch St Clair, a shallow inland loch, excellent for beginners to get on boards and learn their skills. Learning is regularly accompanied by families who make it a day out with a picnic.
The more skilled groups take to CastleBay, the main ferry harbour, which is a great step forward in testing new skills; in more open conditions and in respecting other vessles and learning the Rules of the Road.
Sailing also takes place in Castlebay and the highlight for young sailors every year are the trips from the iconic Kisimul castle to Vatersay’s beaches, for a cup of hot chocolate before racing home. The club is the only one in the Western Isles offering Stage 4 courses and an Advanced Racing module. We attract young people from other areas of the Western Isles to come and take part in these courses, making this the most active club in the Western Isles!
For the first time this year, Barra Watersports hosted the Western Isles Junior Sailing Championship. There was tough competition from Lewis against the local competitors. It was great fun to support the inter-island racing and we hope to continue to grow better island links.
Sea Kayaking has become extremely popular. Over the last few years we have enjoyed sessions for families, young people and adults. Getting kids on the water at an early age hugely increases their confidence.
It is not unusual for the children to spend more time in the water rather than on the water! Sessions often include games, climbing from one kayak to another; stand up paddling and jumping in.
The club recently received funding from Awards-for-All to purchase new sit-on kayaks ready for 2015.Barra Watersports currently operate from a rusty shipping container and a crumbling slipway, at a rather exposed location but have ambitions to provide facilities more suited to the 21st century.
We welcome news that the local community development company, Coimhearsnachd Bharraidh & Bhatarsaidh, CBAB, have agreed to lead on the provision of pontoons and a slipway as part of the Castlebay Harbour Initiative.
We at Barra Watersports look forward to utilising these facilities which we anticipate will allow many more people, of all ages, to participate in our activities over an extended season. We understand that different sites are being looked at presently and hope that the ideal location is found for this future proposal.