Oulton Broad Water Sports Centre recently became officially registered with the Charity Commission as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), marking the start of an exciting new chapter for the Centre. Based in Nicholas Everitt Park, in North Suffolk on the banks on Oulton Broad, the Centre provides a much needed watersports facility for the local community, particularly as people look to be more active outdoors in the wake of COVID-19.

Topper sailing in the sunshine, blue sky, water 

The Water Sports Centre continues the long tradition of providing water-based activities and training at Oulton Broad, something which began in the 1970s for Maritime students at Lowestoft College. Moving to its current location in the 1980s, the current site opened in April 1987 and refurbishments were completed in 1990. At that time the Centre was run by Suffolk County Council and the Suffolk Water Sports Association, providing sailing and canoeing for young people and adults – mainly through schools, scouts and youth organisations.

For many years the Centre enjoyed full activity under the umbrella of Suffolk County Council, providing a base from which many Suffolk schools and other youth organisations ran sailing and canoeing training and activities, before the Ashley School Trust began managing the Centre in 2012, then by Sentinel Leisure Trust in 2018. Following the withdrawal of Sentinel in 2020, and the continuing impact of the pandemic, the Centre remained closed in 2020. The owner and landlord of the premises, Oulton Broad Parish Council (OBPC), is supportive of the continuing operation of the site as a water sport training centre, and this has led to a joint venture between the OBPC and volunteers from OBWSC to establish a CIO to secure the future of the organisation. 

In conjunction with the granting of CIO status, the Water Sports Centre is also embarking on an ambitious fundraising project to get activity started again, primarily aiming to raise funds for a Centre Manager to be in place for the next season. This is combined with an objective to become a Centre of Excellence for a variety of watersports, with activities for all ages – drawing upon the importance of sport and outdoor activities for physical and mental health, with potential for craft to be hired during the season including SUPs.

Lone paddleboarder at sunset 

The Trustees – John Kelly, Lawrence Chapman, Ed Killett, Barry Ling, Ben Falat, Peter Edwards, Claire Grasby, Peter Werner and Clive Purvis are delighted that Oulton Broad Water Sports Centre has been registered as a charity, with their key objective being to provide the opportunity for children, adults and the local community to benefit from the joys of water sports. There are plans afoot to work with other local groups and centres to share experiences for pre and post-Covid activities, to retrain centre instructors and to increase public engagement at the Centre.

Parallel to the development of the Centre was the creation of the Supporters Group in the late 1980s by some of the Centre’s instructors – the idea behind the group being to provide an affordable and sociable option for sailors to continue sailing beyond their qualifications – usually running on Wednesday evenings from April to October, along with some ‘away sails’ at other locations. The members of the group volunteer their time to help with the maintenance of the craft and centre, many have gone on to become instructors. The enthusiasm of the volunteers is one of the Centre’s real strengths, with several of them now on the Trustee Board of the CIO to drive the project forward.

Rigging up wayfarer dinghy 

The Centre is now welcoming new volunteers to support all aspects of water sports both on the water and on the shore.

To find out more about the Centre, how to volunteer or help with fundraising efforts please visit here or contact [email protected]

With 2021 marked as the year of the staycation, there’s never been a better time to find your local sailing venue, get out on the water and #DiscoverSailing.

On coastline, lakes and waterways across the UK there are around 2,000 RYA affiliated clubs and centres offering opportunities for water-lovers of all ages to get afloat. Plus this summer some venues are running #DiscoverSailing sessions inviting you to come and ‘have a go’ for very little cost or FREE.

If you’re interested in getting afloat locally this this summer, get in touch with your nearest sailing venue and find out what they have to offer by visiting www.rya.org.uk/wheresmynearest

To find a Discover Sailing taster session in your area www.rya.org.uk/discoversailing