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Sport, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences

 Ellen Blackwood

Ellen Blackwood

PGR student

 Baring Court 135


Baring Court, University of Exeter St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK


My undergraduate studies at Durham University introduced me to a range of sporting modules including Sports Development, Sport Crime, Sport Psychology and Sports Physiology. From these modules I was able to gain a diverse understanding of the benefits of participation in sport. For my undergraduate dissertation I explored the perceived benefits of dinghy sailing for young people which involved a cross-sectional psychology and physiological study on children who participated in sailing regularly and those that had no experience. This project made me realize the scarce amount of research completed on dinghy sailing and in particular studies focusing upon  children.

Currently being located in Weymouth where the Olympic Sailing was held in 2012 and to have support from the Andrew Simpson Foundation for my Masters studies at CHERC,  I am exploring further into the benefits of dinghy sailing for young people. I am conducting three studies revolved around children’s participation in sailing and the potential benefits that can be present at various stages in a child’s participation within the sport. I am focusing on the immediate impact of sailing working with taster and introductory sessions, the impact of the first qualifications in sailing and how much physical activity participating in sailing can accrue, and finally exploring the perception of sailing and the impact the sport may have had on children who have been participating for several seasons.

Broad research specialisms:

The benefits of dinghy sailing for young people.


Qualifications: BA (Hons) Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity

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Research interests

Project Title: The Benefits of Dinghy Sailing for Young People

Supervisors: Prof. Craig Williams, Dr Alan Barker

Funding Body: Andrew Simpson Foundation: A Sailing Charity

Project Description:

The benefits of dinghy sailing for young people will be explored in three studies. These studies will consist of 3 different target groups; Discover Sailing cohort, RYA Stage 1 and 2 attendees, and members from Bart’s Club or Bart’s Race Club or a regular sailing group. Within each of these groups individual methodologies and themes will be explored.

Study 1 - The Discover Sailing (n=72) held at the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre, will assess the initial perspectives into the single session sailing using the Day Reconstruction Model for Children (DRM-C). Capturing a pre-and post-perception from the individual to highlight key themes such as mental wellbeing and individual development, in doing so, complementing Sport England’s new 2016 strategy. In conjunction, a personality identification will be used to find any association between type of personality and perspectives on sailing sessions which can then be utilised to tailor sailing sessions to suit personalities of the participant and encourage adherence to the sport.

Study  2 - The stage 1 and 2 attendees of the RYA course (n=52) will provide a greater exploration into the physical wellbeing and measure health related markers by applying methods such as heart rate monitoring and/ or accelerometers during sessions. The main aim of the second study will be to identify how much movement during a sailing session can account for meeting the physical activity daily recommended amount. An ethnography study will also be completed by observations during the course of the week. The observations will allow a more accurate overview into the perspectives of sailing for children and adolescents. In conclusion, gaining greater depth into the association of mental wellbeing and sailing for example, the impact of mood upon perspective of sailing.

Study 3 - Bart’s Club and Race Club members or other regular sailing sessions (n=12) will accommodate a longitudinal study by tracking the entrance pathways of the individual sailor. The sample size is derived as appropriate from previous interview research (Beaumont, 2015) to allow themes to be identified without over-testing. The use of interviews with this audience will identify the common promotors that drive their attendance and retention. Within this section several areas of Sport England’s Strategy may be addressed for example the link of social development. This study may offer timeframes of sailing experience where barriers are most prominent and can be used as a preventative model to assist in reducing dropout rates. During this study, the interview will also cover the participants’ future aims and goals to address any current barriers preventing them from achieving. A framework analysis will be completed which may provide evidence for suggestive pathways one example is leisure sailors tend to begin their sailing pathway on holiday or with family.

The predicted timeline of events is to gain ethical clearance at University of Exeter Ethical Board Meeting in February 2017. The practise of methodologies will begin in May 2017 as the sailing seasons commences and will cease when academically necessary, suggested date of October 2017. The thesis will be written up and aiming for submission in May 2018.

Potential Impact
Within the progression groups of sailing an opportunity to identify those who discontinue onto the next stage(s) and more importantly the reasons why they discontinue may be distinguished in a bid to improve retention rates and increase participation numbers in the sport. The outcome of the study endeavours to serve as evidence in further demonstrating the benefits of sailing for young people while encompassing the key outcomes from Sport England’s Strategy.  

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