Learning the ropes at yacht club

Zoe Myall and Holly Barrett have a go at sailing with help Tom Bell (SG140517-157TW).
Zoe Myall and Holly Barrett have a go at sailing with help Tom Bell (SG140517-157TW).
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There can’t be much better ways to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than messing about on the river.

That’s what I discovered when I went along to Welland Yacht Club’s recent open day – part of the RYA’s ‘Push the Boat Out’ campaign to get more people out on the water and learning new skills.

Welland Yacht Club members encourage people to 'Push the Boat Out (SG140517-159TW).

Welland Yacht Club members encourage people to 'Push the Boat Out (SG140517-159TW).

I’ve tried my hand at windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking in the past – but dinghy sailing was a completely new kettle of fish (excuse the pun).

Along with my friend Holly, we headed to the yacht club in River Bank, Spalding.

Donning lifejackets, we boarded an RS Vision dinghy (designed for racing) under the expert guidance of helm Tom Bell (24). A qualified RYA instructor, Tom has been sailing for 10 years and says he loves being on the water and the buzz of racing.

There was no need for speed though just yet as Tom taught us how to ‘tack’ across the River Welland. Tacking is used when going into the wind. It’s a technique of zig-
zagging across the river by controlling the sail at the front of the boat in order to catch the wind. This is done by pulling on a line attached to the sail. Holly controlled one line, while I controlled the other and Tom steered the boat with the rudder at the back.

Incredibly, all this can also be done by a crew of just two – or even one person.

We quickly picked up the technique and made good progress on the glistening blue water before it was time to turn around and cruise back to the club, with the wind behind us this time. It was so peaceful being out on the 
river, with the sun glinting off the water and being out in the fresh air. We loved it.

Back on dry land we 
headed into the clubhouse for a coffee. Andy Prior, sailing and powerboat instructor, then asked if I’d like to have a go on the two-man ‘Scorpion’. Andy (56) has 15 years of sailing under his belt and also races so I knew I’d be in good hands. Sailing the Scorpion was another level entirely and, without Holly helping me with the lines this time, it was down to me to quickly move from one side of the boat to the other as I had to pull in and ‘cleat’ one line then grab hold of another line. I then had to pull that in, cleat it, and so on.

We really picked up speed this time as the wind had got up and I even had the chance to hang off the side of the boat, while pulling in the line, with my feet safely wedged under the foot straps. It was sheer 
exhilaration and I could see how sailing can get addictive.

You don’t have to be into racing or already be a sailor to join in at the club.

Sarah Prior (Andy’s wife), who is Club Commodore, said: “We’ve got about 70 members and people can come down and learn from scratch. We have the juniors on a Sunday morning. Our youngest is five years old. You can also be a 
social member so you can come and take out a dinghy or a canoe. We do powerboat courses too. We’re a really friendly club and we’re always happy to help.”

More information can be found at www.wellandyachtclub.co.uk or email: secretary@wellandyachtclub.co.uk