I am Sailing

Shanklin Sailing Club  - Catamarans Ready
Shanklin Sailing Club  - Catamarans Ready

“Do you sail?”

“No. I haven’t even tried it.”

This is often my reply when someone discovers that I live on the Isle of Wight but I decided to remedy that a couple of weeks ago when Shanklin Sailing Club advertised for anyone who wanted to try sailing, to come along on Saturday morning as part of the Royal Yachting Association ‘Push the Boat Out’ celebrations.

All dressed up in borrowed gear from Shanklin Sailing Club
All dressed up in borrowed gear from Shanklin Sailing Club

I ran down to Little Hope beach, really excited and totally unprepared – I didn’t even have a towel with me but the guys at the club sorted me out with everything from a wetsuit to buoyancy aid and made me feel very welcome.  After completing a form declaring that I was the oldest person in the world to try sailing for the first time and signing another one that probably said something like, “if you fall off the boat and drown, it’s all your own fault,” I climbed on board a sprint 15 catamaran named ‘BobCat’ with adventurous owner Bob at the helm.  We spent the next hour or so catching the wind in the bay and Bob patiently explained the technicalities of how the wind works with the sails.  “I can see how a boat can sail downwind,” I said breathlessly as we tacked to the other side of the boat and changed direction at that moment, “but how does a boat sail against the wind?” I questioned.

It turned out you can make a boat go in any direction you want with clever sail positioning, a wind at an angle of more than 45 degrees and a zig zag route. In principle it seemed simple enough but these guys could see the wind, they knew when it was going to change direction and speed; it was as obvious to them as the boat we were sitting on and as mysterious to me as most things are in physics.

Catamarans on the water
Catamarans on the water

I had naively thought sailing would be a dry activity on a yacht, a bit of wheel turning and boom dodging and not a lot else for the beginner.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Everything moves quickly on a Sprint 15, and as crew, I just followed the instructions from the helmsman.  “Get ready to tack,” Bob called as the wind changed direction.  “Ok!  Go!” At which point I crawled to the other side of the catamaran with all the grace and coordination of a newly born giraffe, avoiding the rainbow of ropes at my feet and the mainsail above my head as waves splashed into me and gravity attempted to dunk me in the sea.

It was so much fun.  I didn’t think I would have enjoyed it as much as I did and although it may have taken 23 years after moving to the Isle of Wight to try sailing, I can at least now say to the next person who asks if I sail.  “No but I’ve tried it.

Taking the boats off the water
Taking the boats off the water
 
I would like to thank everyone at Shanklin Sailing Club who made this event possible; for lending me a towel and all the equipment I needed for a safe and thoroughly enjoyable day at sea.

My experience didn’t end there though.  The following day, the club held a multi heat visitors’ race which I entered and you can read about that event on the Sailing Club's website here.


2 comments:

  1. You didn't mention you won the race.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ha ha, you're right Liam but your write up about the race on the club's website covered it beautifully.

    ReplyDelete