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Boat ownership, female participation and canoeing all on the rise according to latest watersports findings

Published on: 23 March 2015

According to new research released today (23 March 2015), 3.5m UK adults participated in one or more of 12 boating activities1 in 2014.  This remains at a similar level to 2013 at 7.1% of the total adult population in the UK.

Participation in any watersports activity in addition to the 12 core boating activities2 stands at 13.1m (26.8% of UK adults).  This is a slight decline of 2% points (compared to 28.8% in 2013), however this still remains higher than in 2011 and 2012. 

The Watersports Participation Survey is conducted annually by a consortium of leading marine bodies including British Marine Federation (BMF), RYA (Royal Yachting Association), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), British Canoeing (BC) and Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Key findings:

Gender: female participation in ‘any boating activity’ continues a steady increase since 2010 and is now at the joint highest (6.2%, 2007) it has been since the study began in 2002. Males are more likely to be enthusiasts than females with 28% participating more than six times per year, compared to 17% for females.

Age: participation in ‘any boating activity’ amongst those over 55 has been steadily increasing since 2011 and it is now at its highest volume since the survey began; the volume increase since 2002 stands at 66%.  For the 16-34 and 35-54 age groups, participation rates have remained fairly stable over the past 6 years.

Activity: canoeing participation rate continues to rise and has now reached a high of 3.1% participation (1.5m people compared to 3.0% and 1.4m).  The other two boating activities to see slight increases are power boating and canal boating with increases of 0.2% and 0.1% respectively.  Motor boating/cruising and small sail boat activities remain the second most popular, both with 1.1% of the population (522,000 and 518,000 respectively).

Casual v enthusiast: following a rise last year in ‘casual’ participants in boating activities (less than six times), there has been a shift this year with a slight fall in ‘casuals’ and a corresponding rise in the proportion of ‘enthusiasts’ (more than six times a year), returning closer to previously seen levels at 77%.

Boat ownership: more than 1.2 million boats are owned by households in the UK, an increase to 1,214,154 in 2012-14 (from 1,163,726 in 2011-13). This is despite a slight fall in the number of boat-owning households on 2011-13 rates but remains higher than that recorded in 2008-10.

The most popular craft to own is still a canoe/kayak, which now make up 47% of the total number owned (573,614); since 2008-10 the number owned has increased by 55%.  The next most popular are small sailing boats which account for 17% of boats/craft (204,670) and motor boats3 at 7% (82,799).  Ninety five per cent of the boats are kept in the UK.

Howard Pridding, Chief Executive of British Marine Federation said: “The figures for the number of people participating in boating and watersports are encouraging but there's also plenty of room for growth. Getting out on the water is a hugely enjoyable pastime whether you’re a casual participant or much more of an enthusiast, and the marine industry is in great shape to provide plenty of opportunities to enable this.”

To download the report please visit: http://britishmarine.co.uk/Publications/Statistics-and-Market-Research

For more information please contact Annabel Wildey at British Marine Federation on 01784 223811 or email awildey@britishmarine.co.uk.