“Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” says Ratty to Mole in the classic novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’.
All sailors have discovered this to be true, but then many of us got wrapped up in windward / leeward racing, trying to gain the miniscule speed advantage over our peers, concentrating on a tell-tale rather than soaking in our surroundings.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m missing the racing hugely, but I’m loving just messing about in boats, be that my Laser, crewing for my kids in the RS Feva, pottering in a Scow or, as I did this Saturday, windsurfing from Mudeford in Christchurch harbour. My kit is 20 years old at least, and my forearms burned from lactic acid build up far too quickly, but blasting up and down at 25+ knots really was a lot of fun.
What I was struck by was the sheer number of windsurfers out and the camaraderie of all those on the water. Until late in 2019 I hadn’t windsurfed for at least 12 years, and there seem to be many other people who have dusted off their boards to reconnect with the sport. Many of my generation were introducing windsurfing to their kids and a surprising number were sailors that I knew, so we all had a great socially-distanced catch-up. When I parked my car, I found myself next to the van of Simon Maguire, builder of the legendary Exocet Moths, who was out with a wingfoil on a foiling board (naturally). Encouragingly, he said business had been picking up rapidly recently with more people than ever wanting to buy boats.
Chatting with Sail-World.com Australian editor John Curnow today, he reminded me of Mitch Pearson’s article about windfoiling on Moreton Bay at the end of March. Around the globe people are rediscovering the joys of windsurfing, be that on old kit or newer versions of the sport.
Should sailboat racing be concerned by the sudden uptake in windsurfing? No, not at all! Saturday had winds regularly gusting 30 knots, so it really wasn’t a day to be responsibly sailing. Christchurch harbour is enclosed, shallow enough to touch the bottom in most places and so the ideal spot to be enjoying the water during lockdown. Plus, when I went down to my local sailing club on a far less breezy Sunday, the number of boats going out for a sail was simply staggering. It seems the great grass-roots revival is happening.
Inherently during lockdown I’m only seeing with my own eyes what’s happening on my doorstep. It’s hugely encouraging, but I’d love to know what’s happening at your local sailing club. Are you seeing more people going out for a casual sail? Is windsurfing making a comeback in your area? Send me your stories, photos, videos and experiences so that we can share our love for sailing and inspire more people to get out on the water. Email me via firstname.lastname@example.org and please mention who took any photos you send, together with a caption.
Monday 8th June is World Oceans Day. The environment has been brought up repeatedly during lockdown and it’s more important than ever that we respect the seas in which we sail. In the UK it has been shocking to see the rubbish that is left by beachgoers. While educating everyone to take their trash home with them is key, we as sailors can make a difference by spending an hour or so collecting rubbish on our beaches to keep them clean. My great friend and past editor of Yachts & Yachting magazine, Gael Pawson, wrote a superb article for us last year which you can read here.
Stay safe on the water, respect our oceans, fellow sailors and water users, help keep our beaches clean and go enjoy messing about in boats!
Sail-World.com & YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor