The Royal Yacht Association’s Push the Boat Out scheme – a national weekend of sailing and windsurfing – takes place on May 17 and 18. To see what kind of activities are on offer, Carolyn Bointon and her daughter, Jessie, went along to Carsington Water to find out more.
IT has been said that sailing has everything, from being a sociable, relaxing experience to a high-adrenaline, high-action sport.
You can choose to experience the adrenaline buzz of skimming across the waves on a windsurfer or catamaran, or gently pick up the breeze and sail across the water in a dinghy.
Jessie, 13, has wanted to get out in a dinghy and try her hand at sailing for a long time. Especially after holidays spent in the blazing sunshine, when the idea of being out on the blue seas with cooling breezes and light salty spray is really appealing. But, of course, the reality can often not live up to the dream.
Fortunately, this was not the case on Sunday. Despite the rather cloudy and overcast day, the welcome we received upon arrival at Carsington Sports and Leisure was warm and friendly.
Jessie’s instructor for the 90-minute taster session was Craig McCarthy, an enthusiastic sailor, who has been working at the centre for more than four years.
He offered Jessie the choice of going out in a boat with him to learn the ropes, or to get stuck in and go out alone.
Of course, she chose the second option – such is the confidence of youth.
The boats used by the centre are Laser Picos – described by the manufacturer as a “fun, durable, confidence-inspiring, rotomolded boat that can be sailed by everyone”.
They are ideal for entry-level sailors and are equipped with a removable jib and reefing main sail for easy rigging.
Once Jessie was fully kitted out in her wetsuit, life jacket and helmet, she was taken down to the boat for a 15-minute safety briefing and basic introduction to the dinghy. Craig also explained what she would need to if she capsized. She giggled, not knowing that she would actually need to put his words into practice soon.
Once he was happy that she had grasped the concept of sailing, he pushed the dinghy out into the water and off she went.
Safety is of obvious importance at the centre, and it was reassuring to see that Craig was always close by, in a small rigid inflatable boat, should things start to go wrong – but also just far enough away that Jessie felt in charge of the dinghy and that she was sailing on her own.
Of course, she capsized within 15 minutes of being out on the water.
But she didn’t panic and, rather than race right over, Craig allowed her to attempt to right the boat herself a couple of times, before moving closer to help her out. It certainly didn’t put her off and, within a couple of minutes, she was off again sailing back and forth between the island and the shore front.
The final glory of the lesson was to sail around the small island in the reservoir before coming back to land for a hot shower.
The centre has large changing rooms, with several showers and piping hot water, perfect for warming up after an unplanned swim.
Jessie loved the taster session and has already said she would like to learn more. She said: “It was brilliant and I am really proud that I managed to sail the boat on my own round the island.”
Carsington Sport and Leisure is open year round and offers a full range of activities. Cycle hire is available throughout the year, with a range of equipment on offer, including off-road bikes, children’s tag-alongs and seats, plus power-assisted bikes for people needing a little assistance on the trails.
For those wanting to get out on the water, the centre has several options available. There are rowing boats, canoes, paddle boards, windsurfers and dinghies to hire and anyone with their own equipment is also welcome to launch from the centre.
There are a number of experienced, qualified instructors who offer tuition in paddlesports and sailing as well as powerboating and even raft-building.
The centre is also a popular place for fly fishing, with 740 open acres of open water available to cast out and try to land a trout or two.
Centre manager Sarah Barratt said: “Without doubt, the most popular watersport here is sailing, so the RYA’s Push the Boat Out is a great way for people to come along and find out why.
“We will be running three taster sessions on May 18 but, if people can’t make that weekend, then they can always come along another day, as we do offer similar sessions throughout the season.”
There are a further six Derbyshire sailing clubs and watersports centres getting involved in the RYA Push the Boat Out promotion.
Ogston, Staunton Harold, Errwood, Combs, Toddbrook and Trent Valley sailing clubs will also be running have-a-go activities over the weekend of 17-18 May. Booking is essential for some of the activities. They will also be running free open days or discounted taster sessions to encourage people to give sailing – and in some cases windsurfing too – a try throughout the month of May.
Brett Cokayne, RYA sailing development officer for Derbyshire, said: “All of our clubs in Derbyshire run accessible, affordable and inclusive activities for all, regardless of age, gender, background or experience.
“These events are an incredible opportunity for local people to discover what sailing and sailing clubs are really like and enjoy a fantastic, social outdoor sport where everyday life really does get left on the shore.”
Further information on what’s happening where is available online at www.rya.org.uk/go/ptbo.
To find out more about the facilities available at the Carsington Sports and Leisure centre, visit www.carsing tonwater.com.