It all started last year. We had gone to Greece on holiday, and while we where lying on the beach I saw this guy pushing a catamaran into the sea. I went and talked to him, asked various questions and after about five minutes later he sailed away. I went back where I was lying before and made a comment, like how much I would like to learn to sail. Lydia, my girlfriend, made a mental note of that.
We finished our holiday, came back home and from time to time I would remember the conversation with that guy. The following Christmas, Lydia gave me as a present, a dinghy sailing course! Here in UK, the governing body, RYA, have designed courses with a specific syllabus, so sailing clubs and schools around the country can train people to a specific standard. So, now, I had a voucher for a “RYA Level 1” course with the Harp Sailing School, part of Wembley Sailing Club. The course would take place at the end of March – beginning of April, over two Sundays. With work and everything, I hardly had time to think about it. Eventually the time came and the week before the course I hardly had the time to go through the material they had sent me. There was information on gear we should buy etc. I didn’t want to spend any more money, yet, so I decided not to buy any gear, at least not before the first class.
Last night I was so excited that I could hardly sleep. I had prepared a bag with some stuff, a change of clothes (we were advised) and any documentation they had sent me. I woke up this morning and got dressed. I was wearing a pair of long-johns under a pair of track-suit bottoms, a t-shirt, a fleece, a Timberland weatherproof jacket, thermal socks and a pair of boots.
I knew I didn’t have the best gear for the occasion, but I was psychologically prepared to get wet, capsize, swim, everything. I arrived at the Welsh Harp, where the club is based, parked my car and walked in. Surprisingly, I was in time, if not early. Last night we switched from GMT to BST (British Summer Time) so some people were late. This gave me time to open my eyes properly.
We were told the basic stuff, what we would do during the day and we were introduced to our instructors. We were two “students” for each instructor/boat. My instructor, Danny, a 16-year old boy, explained that he had been sailing since the age of five, so he had eleven years sailing experience and he was a RYA approved instructor. He seemed very knowledgeable and confident. He made me feel safe and that he could definitely teach us. We walked to our boat, an RS Vision, which was brand new! We rigged the boat, while Danny was explaining things to us. After all the boats were ready we pushed them into the water.
We would sail into the Welsh Harp (aka Brent Reservoir) which is approx. 1.5 km long and 400 meters wide. The weather was good with a nice strong-ish wind. We learnt how to sail straight using the sails and the rudder while trying to keep the boat straight with our body-weight. We learnt what to do when there is a gust of wind, and we learnt to tack. A tack is a turn against the wind, a windward turn. By that time a couple of boats had already capsized. We were still dry, happy and excited! After our lunch break, Danny explained that if we want to sail against the wind, we have to follow a zig-zag course, because, we cannot really sail upwind. This zig-zag course requires, shorter and quicker tacking. This was slightly trickier but we pulled through. At some point we were the only boat in the Harp. Everybody else was either tired, wet, or both. We were still dry and happy. We sailed for another 45 minutes and then we decided to go in.
We pulled the boat, cleaned it, pushed it back into its storage position, tidied away all the sails and ropes and covered it. I was tired, but I was excited. I am already looking forward to the second day to complete the course and get my certificate. I don’t really care about the certificate, but I want to get into a boat and do all the things I have learnt, ASAP. Still, I have to wait for a whole week, until next Sunday. Next week I will tell you about the second day.