August – September 2022 | Features

It’s calm seas with Rotary

It’s calm seas with Rotary

Robert Burns, a member of the Greenock Rotary Club in Scotland, and an Immediate Past Commodore, reflects on the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians.

Rotary Fellowships really are one of the best fun parts of Rotary. They are not some new idea from Rotary International – far from it!

A Rotarian in London thought it would be interesting to see if like-minded sailing Rotarians would wish to share together their love of both sailing and Rotary. They did, and so the Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians was born in 1947, after Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland, and Rotary International had approved the idea.

As it spread around the world, the group soon became known as the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians (IYFR).


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From that small beginning, IYFR now has about 3,500 members in fleets scattered in about 40 countries, including nine in Great Britain and Ireland, all sailing under the Rotary flag, although sadly we currently have no fleets in Ireland.

IYFR is for Rotarians who enjoy spending time on the water, whether sailing, motor boating, or whatever. There is no requirement to own a boat.

Some fleets have very few boat owners, but instead they charter boats or sail on commercial craft. In Great Britain, we have fleets with sailing yachts, motor yachts and river boats. The only requirement is to have fun!

Fleet activities vary depending on the type of waters on which the fleets are based, coastal waters, rivers, lakes and occur at varying regularity, depending on the fleet.

Our Clyde Fleet in Scotland meets at four to six-week intervals. Events may be day, weekend or longer cruises. More active members in some fleets enjoy racing, but we donā€™t take life too seriously. In one IYFR race, we were passed by a boat whose crew were in the cockpit playing cards!

Most members go for more leisurely pursuits, either sailing in company or just meeting up at agreed anchorages or marinas for lunch or overnight, sharing a meal at a restaurant, enjoying a barbecue on a beach, or eating aboard. Sometimes, members move between boats enjoying a different course on each boat!

Most IYFR members go for more leisurely pursuits, either sailing in company or just meeting up at agreed anchorages or marinas for a bite to eat.

In my first season with IYFR we regularly set sail in company for specific locations but, due to a variety of circumstances, on every occasion we ended up still together, though somewhere quite different from the intended destination. However, we had all enjoyed ourselves greatly getting there.

We always end the day relaxing and looking back at its excitement and laughs and wherever, whatever the event, the fellowship is the same and always fun.

One advantage of IYFR over a usual yacht club is that we have members in many countries and so we can visit them and extend our sailing circle overseas, sampling different sailing waters.

In the past few years we have held get-togethers to sail around the Greek Islands, headed for Spain to sail along the Costa Blanca and sailing on the Black Sea near Bulgaria. There, we anchored at a beautiful sea food restaurant with a wonderful menu, to find that because it was Monday and they were out of everything else, all they could only offer us was mussels, in one form or other, for starter, main course and dessert!

After each Rotary International Convention, a three-day post-convention cruise is organised, the nature of which depends on the location of the convention.

Sailing on the Baltic on Tall Ships, sailing on membersā€™ boats from Vancouver Island and staying on converted rice barges in Thailand are just three examples. When the Convention was in Birmingham, over 60 of us all sailed on membersā€™ and friendsā€™ boats in the West of Scotland, taking in the odd distillery and ceilidh en-route!

IYFR is for Rotarians who enjoy spending time on the water, whether sailing, motor boating, or whatever. There is no requirement to own a boat.”

While IYFR is not a service organisation, many fleets undertake service projects, providing disabled or disadvantaged children or young adults with new exciting experiences on the water. These vary in nature, but they all have a profound effect on the confidence, self-respect, teamwork and respect the young people have for others.

The youngsters leave the events changed people and education departments state that such a profound effect could never be achieved in the classroom.

Many fleets in all parts of the world, have taken up our ā€˜Plastic Free Watersā€™ project, in which fleets undertake beach cleans, remove ghost nets or speak to many organisations to raise awareness of the huge plastic pollution of the oceans.

IYFR brings Rotarians together locally, nationally and internationally to have great fun enjoying their love of both Rotary and sailing. It builds bridges between fleets and Rotary clubs, often resulting in fleet exchanges, or fleets working together with Rotary clubs on Rotary water-based projects.

The fellowship widens membersā€™ horizons and forms long-lasting friendships. Most importantly, while achieving all this, the members are having fun together.

If you wish to learn more about IYFR, contact Robert Burns or visit the IFYR website.

Rotary Fellowships have now increased to a total of about 100, involving various pastimes, sports and professions. You can find out more in the Fellowships section of the Rotary website.

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