Their mission: giving opportunities for disadvantaged youth and at-risk youth and disabled people to participate in water sports activities on an equal level.

The centre was founded in 2003 by Clive Ongley and now runs a host of different programmes.

“Clive knew that young people growing up in deprived areas of London, who are often forgotten about in the education and welfare system, may need extra support and encouragement to lead safe and sustainable lives.” says AHOY Challenge Fundraiser, George Ramsay. “His vision would be that The AHOY could support these young people through the use of water sports, as it encourages cognitive learning through physical activity,”

Since its inception, thousands of young people have learned to row and to sail at the AHOY centre.  The centre currently runs five different programmes and many fundraiser challenges. The five programmes include sailing and rowing activities for disabled, apprenticeships, a Saturday youth volunteer programme course called Shipmates, sailing courses and the AHOY education programme.

The various courses and programmes cater to various needs.

“Not only do the participants gain qualifications in rowing, sailing and water sports – but the scheme also allows them to graduate with maths and english qualifications which are required as a bare minimum for employment in most UK jobs,” says Ramsay.

The Centre aims to teach “transferable and employable skills” such as: life skills, self-confidence, team-building and self-esteem.

The AHOY Centre rowing in London © FISA


The AHOY Centre has found that water sports provide a particular benefit in achieving their goals.

“We have found that from all walks of life, young people who gain an understanding of the water and a respect for its dangers, can become generally fuller people. The Thames (river) is world famous and for years it has been important to London for travel, industry, trading – and now for education. It would be ridiculous not to use such an amazing resource,” says Ramsay.

The additional responsibility given to youth participants when they are on the water helps them to mature and grow. AHOY has found that the participants from their programmes have a change in attitude and behaviour.

Rowers have played a big part in the success of the centre through fundraising. As much as 75 per cent of the centre’s funding comes through rowing challenges that are run from March to October. These challenges include 8.5km rows through the centre of London and the Cross-Channel Row from Dover across the English Channel to the International French Marker Buoy and back.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without our amazing rowers,” says Ramsay who acknowledges that the AHOY centre apprentices and instructors provide the training sessions for those taking part in the challenges.

So far this year the challenges have raised more than £600,000 for The AHOY Charity, but the fundraising is not over. “We’re always on the lookout for more support!” says Ramsay.  

To find out more about the centre: