YOU can sum up what most people know about sailing in two words: Ben Ainslie.
He, as if you needed telling, is the fella who made it four Olympic golds in a row in London, famously remarking ‘don’t make me angry’ when that Danish bloke ganged up with another competitor to bully Ainslie into second place.
He came back and won, but just how he did it is a mystery to most.
The BBC commentators’ attempts to explain were gallant but let’s be honest – as spectator sports go, sailing isn’t exactly the best.
To the layman it appears as though Ainslie and his peers sit on the side of the boat and fiddle with the sail. The vessel bobs forward. And that’s it.
That, however, is most certainly not the case, as I discovered after digging out my waterproofs and joining the members at Blackpool and Fleetwood Yacht Club.
As someone who once vomited 11 times on an overnight ferry to France, I admit I was a tad concerned about going sailing.
I prefer being on solid ground as opposed to water. I find there’s less chance of drowning.
First thing I discovered – apart from how exceptionally friendly the yacht club members are – is how enjoyable and how relaxing it is. That said, it isn’t possible to switch off completely for sailing isn’t like getting in a rowing boat.
There is much to learn and all sorts of weird terms to get to grips with, such as telltales (the string on the sail), the jib (the front sail), halliard (rope to raise the sail), and the tiller (steering). That said, the most important thing of all is wind. None of that, or too much, and it’s impossible to sail.
There are two styles of boats. The dinghy is for one or two people, the type Ainslie sails; offshore yachts are larger and capable of sailing from, say, Fleetwood to the Isle of Man.
I was on the latter, in the capable of hands of Peter and Michael, a pair who have sailed together for many moons and were good company as well as good as dishing out advice.
I needed plenty of that for I didn’t know what I was doing, but according to those at the club – on the bank of the River Wyre at the end of Wyre Road in Skippool – it doesn’t take too long to get to grips with the basics.
“With 10 hours of experience on water I reckon you can be reasonably self-reliant,” said Stuart Fitton.
He is the club’s commodore, the boss, and when it comes to sailing he knows what he’s talking about. Born in Poulton and a club member since he was 14, Mr Fitton has entered competitions all over the world, including the Sydney-Hobart race. He was also in the infamous 1979 Fast Net race from England to Ireland and back, when gale-force winds struck. Of the 306 yachts that started, only 86 returned. 15 people lost their lives.
“It was pretty horrific,” recalled Stuart. “Fortunately I’d read a book about what to do if it turned nasty so we managed to get through.”
Of course, that is sailing at the highest level. You don’t get that if you pop to the yacht club at a weekend, which is exactly what people will have the chance to do on Saturday week when the club holds an open day, from 10.30am to 1.30pm. All are welcome and with the Olympics and the success of Ben you-know-who, chances are it will be a bumper turnout and I, for one, can thoroughly recommend it.
For more information about the Blackpool and Fleetwood Yacht Club open day go to: www.bfyc.org.uk.