As Buxton’s Errwood Sailing Club gets set for a free open day on Sunday, we sent Advertiser reporter Rachel Naylor to give the sport a go and learn her rigging from her rudder.
A week prior to the national RYA Push the Boat Out day on May 18, sailors showed me the ropes at a sailing taster session on Errwood Reservoir in the Goyt Valley.
As I arrive, children as young as four bound off the jetty in mini life jackets, as they finish their junior sailing lessons. ‘How hard can it be?’ I thought.
I meet experienced sailors Dave Pawluk and Martin Scholes, who say they will be taking me out on the water in a Laser Stratos, an all-round cruising and racing boat.
I’m kitted up with salopettes and a life vest and warned that I won’t just get splashed, we might capsize. I laugh nervously, as I’m not sure if they’re kidding.
We walk along the wooden pier and board Martin’s dinghy, which he has prepared for departure. As I duck under the boom and sit down, we set sail.
I have a go at manning the jib sheet, the smaller sail at the front of the boat, using two ropes. I begin to get the hang of it as we zig zag down the reservoir.
Meanwhile, Martin controls the mainsail, which involves moving under the boom, at every turn, which often causes the ship to lean or heel. Both sailors lean backwards out of the boat, away from the sail, to counteract this.
Every so often, Dave yells “Gust!” to inform us of incoming gales of wind, which he says he can predict from the dark patches on the surface on the water.
I’m told at one point, when the boat starts to hum, we’re soaring at about 30 miles per hour, and as the sun shines and wind blows through my hair, I can see why they come down every Saturday.
As the wind picks up, and we turn back to the shore, the boat starts rocking and I’m told we’re entering a death roll. I gulp. I’m suddenly grateful for the red safety power boat that’s been following us round in case of emergency.
They explain that it’s just a rather dark name for when the boat oscillates when it’s going downwind. We manage to stay afloat and I hop off back onto land, relatively dry.
Founded in 1968, the Manchester Road club now has more than 100 members. The reservoir is a hub of activity and is also home to anglers, kayakers, rowers and windsurfers.
In summer, the clubhouse will be undergoing a major £50,000 refurbishment thanks to a Sport England grant last year.
RYA Push the Boat Out takes place at Errwood Sailing Club between 12pm and 4.30pm on Sunday.
Bring warm clothes, soft soled shoes and a towel.
For more details or for information on how to become a member, visit errwoodsailing.co.uk.
To find your nearest Push the Boat Out event at ray.org.uk/go/ptbo.