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Overcoming Adversity: The Story of Ashby Ville Jetski Club

Ashby Ville lake did not really exist until the late 1970’s early 1980’s. In the late 1960’s work got underway to build the then new Anchor Steelworks, the size of the project saw a huge influx of workers from all over the country descend to Scunthorpe. When they had built the steel works the site was abandoned and later was flooded allowing anyone to access the site including launching any uninsured PWC on Ashby Ville Lake as there were no proper checks.  Five pounds was to be paid to a fishing bailiff to use the water and accidents were a frequent occurrence. The North Lincolnshire Council took over Ashby Ville around 2010 changing it into a nature reserve but allowing Jetskiing and fishing to continue.

Things carried on as usual when the council took over Ashby Ville… small groups of riders with no health and safety in mind, doing whatever they liked on the water, until 2014 when the council had to close the lake. A PWC crashed into a public wooden walkway bridge causing damage and failed to report it to the council, giving reason for the council to put up a stone wall around the launch ramp area stopping access to the lake. Alan Dale, the future club AVJC secretary, contacted his MP and his local councillors to request a meeting with the persons responsible for closing the lake. Alan’s reasoning with the council was that they could not and should not penalise every PWC user, as the majority of riders using the lake at that time were very responsible people. He told them that there has been PWCs on Ashby Ville for over forty years and that this should give them grandfather rights for PWC owners to the use the lake. This opened the door to negotiations with the council to re-open Ashby Ville Lake.

In November 2014, Alan Dale, Graham Leech (future club chairman), Anna Dale (future club treasurer) Adrian Wilson, and a number of other interested PWC riders had a meeting with the local council. An agreement was made by the council to lease the lake to them only if they formed a Jetski club, with conditions that the club have regular meetings with the council to make sure it follows their rules and abide with the constitution.

Thus, Ashby Ville Jetski Club was born. In an odd twist of fate one of the local council’s leaders decided to pop into Johnstone Insurance Brokers Ltd in Scunthorpe to ask about the potential of obtaining insurance cover for a jetski club. He had no idea that Johnstone’s in fact traded as RJP Marine and were the very best placed people to offer exactly that advice and cover, being founder members of the Personal Watercraft Partnership and involved in the sport for the past 30 years. Chris Harper of RJP Marine became involved with the Group and even hosted some of the initial Club meetings helping the club sorting out their public liability insurance for AVJC.

The story for Ashby Ville Jetski Club began in 2015 when its was agreed that we form a Jetski Club with rule, regulations and a constitution.

 

Ashby Ville Jetski Club Rules & Regulations

  1. Members only club, no public day launch. 2. 40 members max. 3. All members must have their own insurance which they must register with the club. 4. All skis used must be scrutinised for any defects such as oil or fuel leakage, noise levels, safety systems, controllability. 5. Gate must be locked at all times except for launching and retrieval of skis. 6. Alcohol and drugs will be enforced with a zero-tolerance policy. 7. All skis must travel in an anti-clockwise direction around the lake. 8. All users must stay at least 5 meters away from the wooden walkway. 9. All users must not splash or endanger ay member of the public who is walking around the lake. 10. All users must wear a PFD while on a ski or near the water’s edge. 11. All users must attach their safety lanyard whilst in operation of their craft. 14. All members must clean up after themselves and leave no litter, if the bins provided are full then please take your litter home with you. 15. Under 16’s must complete a RYA PWC course before using the lake and also be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 16. Anyone found to be breaking rules or endangering a member of public will be banned from the site and membership revoked. 17. All users must stay within the designated ski zone. 18. All users use this facility at their own risk, we will not be held responsible for any injury, loss or damage of property whilst at the site. 19. No propeller driven craft is permitted on the water to protect the wildlife; all jet driven craft must have an intake grate fitted. 20. Membership will lake decided on a character basis and providing the rules set out are agreed with. 21. No fires on site, all BBQ’s must be extinguished and not placed in the bins, take the remains home with you, we don’t want wildlife and dogs rifling through the bins for food scraps or a hot ember causing damage to the bin. 22. All dogs must be kept on a lead and under control, please clear up if your dog fouls. 23. No public access for skiers on the lake, members only. 24. Guests will be permitted to join you but they are not allowed to launch their own craft, only member registered crafts are permitted on the lake. 25. No one is permitted to ski alone; you must have someone with you in case of an emergency. 26, Membership will run on an annual basis and no profit will be taken from the takings, any extra monies left over will be used to either improve the site, have a club meal or a charity can be selected to donate it to. 27. Water skiing, wake boarding or towed toys will be permitted to two at a time on the lake. People wishing to tow with their ski must prove they have the relevant insurance to do so. 28. All incidents or accidents must be reported and the time and date noted. 29. Fire extinguisher must be carried by all members using the lake. 30. PWC promotion day launch available to JSRA licence holders on Wednesday PM. (subject to change). 31. Fire brigade must be given priority over PWC activity for training purposes if they wish to use the lake. 32. Flyboards are permitted on the lake provided they have insurance to cover the activity and no PWC’s are permitted on the lake whilst it’s being used. Flyboard activity is restricted to 20mins per session once agreed with the attending members; flyboard operators use their equipment at their own risk. It is mandatory for all flyboard users to wear a helmet. 33. Any registered member selling a PWC can permit a potential buyer to water test the craft provided induction questionnaire has been completed and the members insurance covers the user, in addition the PWC must be a registered craft with the Ashby Ville Jetski Club. 34. No refuelling in the water (environment safety). 35. No-wake zone (tick over only) near the beach/launch area. 36. Rules may be subject to change at any time and members will be informed. Noise management All craft will need to be fitted with a noise reduction water box system and all exhaust outlets below the waterline. We will ensure all craft are fitted with suitable silencers and will be in good working order. Jet-ski activity on the lake will be restricted to 10.00am until 1 hour before dusk. Skis will not be run out of the water for more than 10 seconds due to noise pollution. Only 5 skis will be allowed to operate on the lake at a time to actively reduce noise levels. All members must respect the local residents and keep general noise to a minimum. All skis used must be scrutinised for any defects such as oil or fuel leakage, noise levels, safety systems, controllability. Noise will be monitored by Committee members and any cause for concern will be swiftly dealt with accordingly and action taken.)

 

Throughout the month of March 2015 Ashby Ville Jetski Club signed up its first 30 members.

They introduced AVJC application, induction and inspections forms, issued photo ID membership cards and AV numbers to stick on the side of each PWC. They arranged for a number of PWC’s at the lake to carry out a noise level test and by mid-April all required buoyage had been lain at the lake and its depths mapped by sonar. Lastly, they erected AVJC signs and were ready for the official opening on April 1st 2015.

Despite goodwill gestures, such as club members spending the day litter picking around the lake, the club formation did not go down well with everyone. When the time came for the first catch up meeting with the council it was clear the local fishermen had issues with Ashby Ville Jetski Club having use of the lake. The local fishermen attempted to escalate the issue with accusations and produced ‘incriminating footage’ of club members ‘doing wrong’ but this backfired on them as this footage showed no wrongdoing. The council instructed AVJC not to react and assured them that they would keep an eye on the situation.

Only 1 month in from the club’s official formation the club had managed to jump every hurdle thrown at them by a council who seemed to want them to fail. The club were asked to look out for another lake but the council didn’t count on them been so determined to do their sport – this made them even more determined to succeed.

As the Spring season progressed AVJC continued to make improvements to their buoyage, with additions to the far side of the lake. The club also had to tackle problems such as launch gate damage and vandals supergluing the combination locks, as well as unknown parties padlocking both the gate latches. On top of this, by mid-Summer the issues with a particular local fisherman reared their head once again. A particular fisherman, ‘Mr Unknown’, did not wish to talk to the club to discuss his issues, rather he campaigned lies on social media to have AVJC shut down. Once again, the club prevailed with police forcing removal of all of ‘Mr Unknown’s content regarding the club from social media, or threat of being arrested and charged with perjury.

The club’s positivity not to be knocked, at the end of summer the club (Jet Sport Racing Association) members set buoys into a challenging race course at the lake. Shortly after in that November, one of these members set a new Jetski record of 74.39mph in the runabout 1200 class at Coniston, making them the second person in the club to hold world speed records.

2017 brought a new challenge for the club, the move to a neighbouring lake ‘The Blue Lagoon’. Although the council were happy with how the club had operated on Ashby Ville, they claimed they had ‘other plans’ for the lake and proposed a move to the neighbouring lake – however, this new lake needed some development in order to allow PWCs to get onto the water. Work had already begun to prepare the new base for the club: all overgrown grass had to be cut back so the developer could see the levels and advise the club on the best approach for adding parking and launching to the lake, and these plans had been drawn up. All at the club’s expense.

This proposed move did not lack its own opposition, this time from Flixborough Parish Council. Flixborough had a track record of opposing any change within their parish, even change that could enrich it. This attracted interest from the press, newspaper coverage and even TV coverage from Look North. Though this was yet another obstacle the club remained positive as this move had been put forward by the North Lincs Council themselves. Alan put in for a got a local grant to cover the cost of the move which was just over thirty thousand pounds, for putting in a new ramp, altering the entrance way for a new road down to the lake with carparking spaces, all fenced off from the public walkway. Everything from planning to finding a suitable contractor was up to the club to find and develop the Blue Lagoon into a Jetski lake.

Though the drama was not over…in the last days of preparation before beginning the work on the new lake, Alan received reports that there was in fact an open water swimming club that had use of the lake, this club comprising 240 swimmers! It turns out that due to an accident involving a jetski on Ashby Ville (prior to AVJC’s formation) the council had also moved the open water swimming club to Blue Lagoon. When Alan pointed out to the council that you cannot have Jetskiers and swimmers on the lake as it was a Health and Safety issues, they cancelled the move to the Blue Lagoon and issued another licence for the AVJC to remain at Ashby Ville Lake for another year and the club are still there to this day. Everybody in the club was relieved and happy to stay at Ashby Ville, despite being over £2000 poorer with the work that had already been carried out at the Blue Lagoon!

Disaster Strikes

Early summer 2018 brought dark times for the club, as an accident involving 3 boys resulted in the Air Ambulance being called to Ashby Ville. The three boys were injured whilst being towed on an inflatable behind a Jetski, unfortunately they came into contact with the wooden walkway near Morrison’s whilst negotiating a turn. After this the North Lincs Council gave direct instruction to the AVJC to prohibit all inflatable towable’s on the lake going forward, which the club agreed with. At this point the club also set in place a ruling that all under 16s must wear a correctly fitting crash helmet whilst riding a PWC on the lake.

The injured boy’s parents were looking for compensation and commenced proceedings against the owner of the towing jetski. As in line with all jetski insurance policies cover is only provided where no more than two people are being towed so that left the Club in the firing line and they took the hit. It felt wrong as the Club were not at fault but the law would see it differently. Fortunately the Club’s Public Liability insurance policy provided the indemnities necessary to protect the Club and individuals who ran it. This meant further difficulty for the club though, with a renewal cost of their public liability insurance treble that of before the accident.

Due to all the recent events and changes the club had had to make, a few additional safeguards were put in place. One new rule being: The club’s current members and anyone operating a member’s ski on the lake will need to carry out an induction prior to use and will be issued with a revised copy of the rules. All new members or returning members would have to take their RYA before joining the club.

Summer 2018’s theme started as it meant to go on with the appearance of potentially toxic Blue Green Algae in the lake, meaning the lake had to be closed to users. After months of waiting and the all clear from the Environment Agency, AVJC were given the go ahead to start using the lake again in October 2018.

That Autumn the club also worked on safety improvements to the lake. A No Wake Zone was added to control speed of PWs, meaning they could only operate at tick over going out into the lake and back. A buoyage system was also introduced where members entered the lake between the blue buoys and returned through the green buoys. Further improvements in February 2019 included the club hiring a JCB to move sand away from the launch ramp area to make it easier to launch the skis, remeasuring the depth of water around the course buoys and numbered all the buoys in the lake and additional safety signage for the public around the launch site.

2020 – Due to the Coronavirus pandemic AVJC, like everywhere else in the UK, closes.

As with all obstacles that Ashby Ville Jetski Club have needed to overcome, they adapted quickly to the pandemic & the quickly made the necessary changes to their protocol in order to have the club reopened at the end of May 2020. The mandatory 2 metre distancing, only family members (no other club members) helping with launch of jetskis & putting the technology in place to move memberships to online sign up were examples of this.

A leading example

Ashby Ville Jetski Club are a brilliant example of the sometimes-necessary adaptability you need to run a such a club. Each obstacle the club have faced they’ve overcome methodically and professionally, and as such now provide a textbook case study on how to successfully run a Jetski Club.

The AVJC activity promotes and encourages jetskiing of all ages. They work closely with the JSRA (Jet sport racing association of Great Britain) which over the years has been a positive breeding ground for racers competing at all levels. World Champions, European champions & British champions have started out at Ashby Ville, with many adult & Junior racers training and honing their skill with regular practice sessions around the permanently set out buoyed course.

A couple of AVJC riders, namely Darren Leeper & Graham Leech, currently hold 4 x World Water speed records between them, all secured at Lake Coniston. Both have tuned their craft at the Ashby Ville Lake prior to the UIM/RYA sanctioned events held every year.

The future bright at AVJC with racers like Graham Leech, Casey Megan Leech, Lucy Gadsby, Luke Thomson, Kian Ellerington, Lennon Parkin, Steve Holmes, Lee Ward, Harvey Ward now in weekly training sessions as they prime themselves to compete in international events, as well as outlet the club gives their many recreational members to enjoy themselves on a weekly basis.

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