Have you had a sailing taster session but didn’t know how to take it further, or maybe you’ve had a lifelong interest in taking up the sport but have never known where to start?
You might be surprised at just how accessible sailing clubs are. As RYA Push The Boat Out 2015 looms, sailing newcomer James Wheeler says if he can do it, so can you!
“I never even knew that you didn’t need to own a boat to go sailing!” said James Wheeler as he reflected on his first year as a sailor.
DREAMS INTO REALITY
Rewind twelve months and sailing was just a pipedream for the Derbyshire-based company director.
A love of the sea spawned from growing up in Ostend, Belgium had been replaced by a reluctant, ultimately misguided, acceptance that living in the Midlands meant he would be unlikely to fulfil his ambition of learning to sail, until later in life at least.
Although he had seen boats sailing on the lake at the local country park, he had no idea that he was actually surrounded by buoyant sailing clubs. James had not realised how easy is was to get afloat so close to home, especially living almost as far from the sea as is possible in this country.
Thanks to the investigative persistence of his wife, Zoe, James’s family, including nine-year-old daughter Jessica, suddenly had their eyes opened to a life they never thought was possible at Burton Sailing Club.
Now, as Britain prepares to Push The Boat Out with free and low cost ‘have-a-go’ opportunities for all at some 300 sailing clubs and watersports centres nationwide between 9-17 May, James is urging others to follow his lead.
MAKE A CHANGE
James said: “Sailing has changed all our lives in the best way possible. When I had seen boats out on the water close to my home in Derbyshire I always assumed it was people who owned boats getting together and going for a sail. I had no idea there were clubs there let alone how big, well-developed and ‘professional’ the clubs were.”
“There is still this perception that sailing clubs will be exclusive, ‘snobby’ places but I know from first-hand experience that could not be further from the truth. Everyone we have met has been very down-to-earth, and even people we might never have met before are still so happy to help me with setting the boat up or give their advice.“
“I think people see sailing equipment and think ‘Wow that looks expensive, I wish I had the money to do something like that’ without realising that they can!”
Although James’ wife initially bought him RYA Level 1 Learn to Sail lessons after doing her research, all the family got a taste of what lay ahead when they attended Burton’s annual Open Day last May.
Just like thousands of people nationwide will over the nine days of RYA Push The Boat Out in May, the Wheelers got their first taste of what sailing clubs are really like and how easy it is to learn to sail and join a welcoming, friendly club wherever you live.
James described the Open Day as ‘perfect’ as the trio went out in a Flying 15 keelboat with an experienced club member, taking it in turns to helm, trim the sails and simply enjoy being on the water.
A couple of social drinks in the bar and a BBQ broke down any lingering misconceptions the Wheelers had about sailing. There was no pressure to join, just a warm professionalism that told them how they could.
Since completing his Level 1 course, James has fully embraced club life at Burton. He has done his Level 2, undertaken powerboat safety training to start volunteer duties and discovered a competitive streak on the water he never knew he had.
Jess, meanwhile, has loved taking part in kids’ fun days at the club, while she and Zoe will probably tackle their RYA Stage 1 and Level 1 certificates respectively this coming summer.
Jess, then eight, has already had a go at crewing for her dad in a 420, a moment James described as “nerve-wracking” being responsible for his daughter’s safety on the water for the first time. But although still building up his own confidence and skills, he is looking ahead at the boat he might eventually like to invest in, having taken advantage of Burton SC’s free club boat hire for members over the past year.
He added: “We have only scratched the surface with club life. This time last year I could not have imagined the life we have discovered on our doorsteps, but I am so pleased we have.”
HAVE A GO
RYA Push the Boat Out is a nationwide festival of sailing and windsurfing introducing newcomers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to the sports.
Last year 260 clubs and centres in Britain hosted Push the Boat Out events with 17,000 people trying sailing or windsurfing for the first time over one weekend.
But with this year’s Push The Boat Out running over nine days – two weekends and five weekdays – even more people will have the chance to have a go and discover how easy it is to learn to sail and join a sailing club across the country.
Each Open Day and taster session will be different depending on what activities each club or centre offers, but all Push The Boat Out events are geared to appeal to the widest possible range of people, showcasing what the sports are really all about, from the freedom of being on the water to the social buzz of club life, and highlighting just how accessible sailing actually is to everyone.
All you need for any club Open Day or ‘have a go’ sessions are a warm clothes, soft-soled shoes and a waterproof; the clubs and centres will provide anything else you need. Booking is essential for some of the activities.
Refreshments will be available and a friendly smile guaranteed as BBQs and other social activities also take place to give newcomers a warm welcome.
In 2014, Britain’s sailing clubs gained more than 1,000 personal memberships through Push The Boat Out with more than 500 families also becoming members of the clubs they visited.
For full details on Push The Boat Out 2015 and what’s going on in your area visit www.rya.org.uk/go/ptb
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