For children and young people, sailing and windsurfing can provide a real antidote to the stresses of school, screens and social media, while for grown-ups it is a great way to get outdoors, switch off from the demands of work and daily life, as well as improving fitness. For the competitive, there is racing.
The RYA’s Try Sailing in May campaign will be inviting people to Push the Boat Out for little or no cost, with open days offering taster sessions throughout the month at hundreds of sailing clubs and watersports centres across the country, at inland lakes and reservoirs, as well as on the coast.
The campaign is all about making it as simple as possible for people to get on the water. A variety of accessible and fun options are then available for those who are inspired as a result to take up sailing or windsurfing, or return to the sport following a break.
A new chapter
Karen Corley discovered a love of sailing and a new passion for life after trying the sport for the first time during a Push the Boat Out open day at her local club in 2016.
Having lost her husband the year before and given up her job in London, Karen decided to go along to the Marconi Sailing Club event after looking out over its stunning Blackwater estuary location in Essex on a cycle ride around her home village.
“I was completely lost and lacking in confidence at the time,” she recalls, “but everyone at the club was really friendly and made me feel very welcome. I went out in a Pico dinghy with someone and it was a fairly brisk wind that day, so we got a bit wet, but I really enjoyed it and had a fabulous time.”
It would be the start of a whole new chapter for Karen, who turns 60 this year. She joined the club and learnt how to sail, progressing to dinghy racing and crewing on yachts, and is now signed up for the Australia-China leg of the next Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
As a semi-retired freelance consultant, Karen says she is very much sailing on a shoestring but has nevertheless found the sport extremely accessible: “When I first joined Marconi I borrowed one of the club Toppers available for members’ use – a small singlehanded dinghy – and a generous friend lent me hers, and I did that for about a year before I had the chance to buy a second-hand one. With dinghy sailing especially, you do not have to spend lots of money to do it, and if you want to go yacht sailing, lots of people want crew all the time.”
Karen enjoys the independence and decision-making of sailing her one-person Topper dinghy and by contrast, the teamwork of sailing bigger boats as a crew for the club’s cruiser-racing fleet of yachts. She refers to the club as her second home but says her three grown up children would argue it is her first home!
Explaining what captured her imagination about sailing, she adds: “I love being out in the elements and it is a beautiful spot on the Blackwater. I like to challenge myself and go out in quite lively winds, that is part of the fun, and I enjoy learning new things.
“Once you are out in a boat on the water, you have to focus on what you are doing, so you are just transported somewhere else – it is another world.”
A warm welcome for all
Family-friendly Marconi Sailing Club will again be one of the venues opening its doors to all comers for Push the Boat Out this May. Among the club’s ambassadors will be new members who have joined in the last two years, who will be taking visitors on the water and sharing their experiences of what it is like to learn a water sport.
Liz Kirby from the club says: “People are always a little bit nervous when they come to look around but it is a great opportunity for them to have a go at sailing or windsurfing and a chat with members, including those who have only just started themselves, and see that actually anyone can give this a go and it can be really good!”
Like many sailing and yacht clubs, Marconi has a ‘learn to sail’ pathway of RYA-recognised courses and ongoing supported sessions catering for all ages from eight to 80, enabling new members to gradually learn and practice new skills with experienced instructors and sailors.
“Push the Boat Out is always a fabulous day for visitors to see what we offer and to have a go at something they may never have done before,” says Liz. “It is a really safe environment, giving people the confidence to get out on the water, and it is fun!”
Sailing wherever you live
Many people are inspired to join a club on the day, while others take away the details with an invitation to return at any time during the year if they want to find out more.
There were more than 375 Push the Boat Out (#PTBO) events nationwide in 2018 and this year’s campaign is again on course to offer anyone who has ever wondered if sailing or windsurfing might be for them, a chance to find out.
As PTBO Programmed Manager Michelle Gent explains: “Wherever you live in the country there will be a Try Sailing in May event near you!
“Come along if you have never tried sailing or windsurfing before but want to see if getting on the water might be for you. Likewise we would love to welcome you aboard if you have kids and are looking for an outdoor adventure, or if you are a single person looking for a community, or a lapsed sailor or windsurfer looking for a way to get back on board.
“Find out what is going on in your local area and get involved.”
In 2018 more than 39,000 people attended an event, with more than 3,500 new sailors and windsurfers joining their local club as a result. In 2019 it could be you!
To find your nearest Try Sailing in May venue, visit www.rya.org.uk/ptbo.