Setting sail by Jane Shillingford


I recently had the chance to join this course and thought a few words about how it went might encourage anyone thinking about having a go themselves

Our first day began with cheery greetings from Jon, our instructor.  Then, clad from top to toe with Bendoran’s amazing water wardrobe, we met the Wayfarer that we would be learning to sail.

Whilst the boat was still ashore, we had an introduction to its anatomy, sailing terms and some practice at tacking.  Next we wheeled the boat on its trolley into the water and learned how to rig it and raise the sails.  Ok, so now we had a floating Wayfarer with 2 sails a-flapping rather like an enthusiastic dog awaiting a walk.

Jon took us out of the bay, explaining the importance of setting the sails to get the best of the wind, then showed us how to tack.  Hmmmm… looked nice and easy, calm and controlled, so then followed our turns.  Well, like most things, easy when you know how but for us novices, getting the hang of the correct hand for the tiller and main sail sheet and swopping sides to balance the boat when we tacked as well as looking where we were going and remembering which way the wind was coming from, was serious multi tasking!  But, my word, what patience Jon has, calmly correcting our mistakes, acknowledging our successes and throwing in a story or two as we went.

Once out at the head of the bay, we sailed some long stretches, our tacking skills slowly improving.  All too soon it was lunchtime but hey, that gave us the opportunity of learning how to bring the boat safely back to the jetty, nice and gently.  Back out again in the afternoon for some more practice after Jon had done some more explaining of manoeuvres with lovely sketches on the whiteboard.

On the second day, our whiteboard lesson showed us how to gybe (“mind yer head”) and to run before the wind, so we both did our best to transfer the theory into practice once out on the water.  Sure we got it wrong a number of times but Jon’s encouragement seems endless and we both had periods where we really sailed well (honestly).  In the afternoon we had a go at steering to a 3 point course, which would use all the skills we’d been learning and do you know, on reflection, that was actually quite a lot.

These were 2 wonderful foundation days, in the lovely setting of Bendoran, for us to build on – rain, sun, wind, gusts (look out for dark patches on the water), lack of wind and the exhileration of flying along the water (when you got it right) and the real fun and support of teamwork.

So, to anyone thinking of having a go, think less, just do it.  These will be two days that you’ll never forget.  Thank you Jon.