The Beginning

by Tony Lyons

It all started with a conversation with a work colleague. We were travelling up the M1 to Leeds in the works van, mid January 2009, looking at fields covered in a fresh blanket of snow.
“Dave” I said, “looking at this winter scene has got me longing for another ski holiday”
“What’s the attraction” he replied.
I went on to tell him how much I loved the exhilaration of speed whilst downhill skiing combined with beauty and remoteness of the mountain scenery.

Something I said must have sparked an interest in him because the following year he told me he had booked a learn to ski day at the Tamworth Snow Dome and was going to go on a skiing holiday in the Alps the following winter.
Spring came and Dave went on his ski course.
“How did you get on Dave” I asked the following Monday at work.
“Loved it” he replied. “I had a great time and met some great people too”
So Dave joined the Snow Dome and regularly met up with his new friends to hone his new skills.

A few weeks later during one of our many conversations about skiing Dave told me about a sailing holiday he was going to go on with one of the guys he met on his ski course. He was a teacher and a senior sailing instructor at Carsington Sailing Club called Will, and it was on a Bavaria 38 sailing out of Gosport onto the Solent.
“I would so love to do that” I exclaimed “I’ve always fancied having a go at sailing”
“Well come along then” he replied “the more the merrier”

So that was that, I was going on my first proper sailing holiday. I don’t think 2 weeks on a motor cruiser on the Norfolk Broads really counts somehow.

Before the trip I met up with Will for the first time at the sailing club. He took us out on a Squib for a taster session, where we got our first foray into tacking and jibing.
This is alright I thought, I could get into this.

A couple of weeks later we did the Solent trip. Dave, me, Will Horsburgh and his dad Mike. We had a fantastic time that week, sailing from port to port, tacking, jibing, reaching, broaching and other such nautical things that were all new to me.

My mind was now made up, I was going to learn how to sail.

Winter came and went and Dave and I booked onto the May RYA level 1 & 2 course. Will Horsburgh was the senior instructor on the course and he assigned David Howarth to be our instructor in the training boat.

First we had some time in the classroom talking about the basics and rules. One of them was “don’t get the instructor wet”. We were about to blow that one right out of the water so to speak!
So we rigged the Comet Trio and set sail in what felt like a force 9 gale, although they told us it was only a force 4. David was at the helm showing us the ropes, Dave and I crewing.
I then helmed and did a few tacks; each time after the tack I would look up and wonder where we were, which way were we facing and where the hell was that wind coming from.
Dave then took the helm and it wasn’t long before we took the first of 6 capsizes that day. It felt like we spent more time in the water than we did in the boat. We didn’t really understand what we were doing but we had a really enjoyable day. We even taught our instructor David a few choice nautical terms that he hadn’t heard before.
I do remember thinking at the time that I would never get the hang of this sailing lark but was enjoying it immensely so was looking forward to the following week.

Week 2 and we now had to do jibing as well as tacking. I had more awareness this week after the turns and now a vague idea where the wind was coming from. Lots more laughing ensued with of course more capsizing (only 4 this time though).
After lunch they sent us out on our own, just Dave and I alone in the dingy.
We were very apprehensive to start with but after a while, when we realised we weren't going to crash and sink, we started to push the boat a little, leaning right out over the side trying to get as much speed out of it as we could.

Week 3, Dave and I were alone in the boat with David yelling instructions from the safety boat. It seemed to be coming together now; we were sailing a triangle both ways round with confidence.
We did have one scary moment though as we were heading towards the far corner near the tower. I pushed the tiller away to tack and nothing happened, tried again and nothing happened. Eyeing the ever looming wall in the forbidden zone I tried again, nothing happened. By now panic was starting to set in with both of us. Luckily the instructors came racing over, seeing our predicament. “What’s the problem” David yelled. “I can’t tack, we’re being blown onto the wall”
“Where’s your dagger board” he replied.
“It’s up” oops as I realised my mistake. One of the five essentials I thought.

Crisis over it was now time to practice capsize recovery. Dave and I had no problem with this as we were practically experts on it by now.

Week 4, we had to put it all together. As was explained in the training room we would all sail behind the instructors boat in single file like little ducks following their mother, slowing down and speeding up as required and then come alongside it in a controlled manor when they called us.
Then we would have to perform man overboard recovery using a floating barrel of water.
As we walked outside to rig the boats Dave and I looked at each other with big nervous grins on our faces and said almost simultaneously in very low voices “how on earth we going to manage that”.

Well surprisingly we did. It all went to plan much to our amazement. I think the instructors had more faith in our abilities than we did.

After we had completed our tests we went for a big sail round, laughing and joking. We could sail. Alright we might not get in the Olympic team but for us it was an achievement. We could actually sail.

A couple of weeks later I joined the Sailing Club. Upon hearing this David our instructor on the course came and asked me if I would like to crew for him on his Catamaran on Sundays.
I jumped at the chance and met him bright and early the following Sunday.

As I was racing across the water hanging from a trapeze wire at an incredible rate of knots on one of the fastest boats around with spray water crashing over me I just had enough time to reflect on how far I come in such a small space of time.

Going from the Comet Trio to the F18 was like getting out of my old 1.1 Ford Escort and into a Ford Focus Cosworth; the speed is incredible.

Well I’m still crewing for David and loving every minute of it.
We won the Series 2 morning and afternoon series and achieved 3rd place in our class in the Catamaran Open Meeting held at Carsington in September.

And to think it all started with a chance conversation with a work colleague about skiing.

I’ve still got lots to learn but I’m having great fun doing it.