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Keelboats Expand Sailing Options at Clubs 

Illusions introduced at Middle Nene SC and SB20s at Draycote Water

At Middle Nene SC in Northamptonshire, one-person Illusion keelboats have been accepted into the club’s menagerie fleet to widen the sailing options for members.

The 12' singlehanded mini-keelboat is ideal for the lake at Thrapston, and with 160kg ballast offers good stability in all weathers, with a three-sail layout and host of trimming and tuning options making for exciting sailing and closely matched racing.

There are Illusion fleets at Aldenham SC in Hertfordshire, Bembridge SC on the Isle of Wight and at West Kirby SC on the Wirral – and the class has been adopted by Middle Nene SC to broaden the variety of sailing available for new and existing members. Following a successful trial over summer, the Illusion has joined Middle Nene SC’s existing range of classic and asymmetric dinghies and Flying Fifteens.

Club spokesman Wilf Kunze, who suggested introducing Illusions having sailed them previously at Aldenham, says: “We were looking at how to bring back sailors or bring new people into the game. We introduced Illusions as a second keelboat class to make racing attractive to a wider range of people, thus not just shifting sailors within the classes but actually bringing in/back extra sailors who were not currently racing. We now have three Illusions at MNSC racing regularly and another boat will hopefully arrive in October.”

The Illusions race with the Slow Handicap fleet, making it more exciting for the club’s junior sailors because they have extra competition and adults to race against, and as Wilf explains: “You can sail them in all weathers – while others are fighting for survival, you look up and worry about your sail trim. It brings in people who would find a racing dinghy a bit too challenging but can’t sail a Flying 15 because they haven’t a crew or they’re just uncomfortable with it because they feel it’s too big... people who are getting older or who just want to be more comfortable or don’t want to capsize. We’ve had a lot of people trying them out of all ages. It’s a pleasure to sail and good fun and it brings in members that wouldn’t sail before or who we would have lost as active racing members.”

Wilf plans to soon have a class boat at the club available to anyone who would like to try Illusion racing while considering buying their own or waiting for one to become available. To find out more about Middle Nene SC click here.  

Club SB20s add Corporate Income and Diversify Sailing

Draycote Water SC in Warwickshire has added two SB20 keelboats to its fleet of club boats to generate income from corporate days, maximise the use of its facilities during the week, and diversify sailing opportunities for members and the wider community.  

The SB20s are proving popular not only with business people but also with children’s parties and groups of older people who might not otherwise get out on the water. In addition, the keelboats will enable a broader spectrum of Start Sailing courses and are expected to open up opportunities to develop keelboat and match-racing skills for members and possibly through inter-club events for the region in the future.  

The club bought the sportsboats in summer and has so far hosted around 10 corporate days, with clients including Severn Trent, Jaguar Land Rover and a property company.

Committee members approved a five-year business plan with a generous budget to launch the project; the two SB20s were chosen for many reasons, including being excellent value for money second-hand. Having the right kit to attract the chosen market was important, so a big chunk of the budget was also invested in buying kit for customers to wear, including 20 sets of Gill waterproofs and new buoyancy aids. The funding also covers staffing and training, cutting down two sets of sails for windy days, and marketing.

The entire project is club-funded with the expectation that it will break even well within the five years and generate income and a range of opportunities going forward.

Water manager Dave Rowe says with the club open seven days a week, with full-time staff, keeping busy and balancing the books required thinking outside the box: “We wanted to bring business people to us but didn’t want them to have to wear wetsuits or training kit, or have them capsizing.  

“This enables them to get out sailing for a few hours in the Midlands, without having to go down to the south coast, and without a major interruption to their working week. They can have a meeting, conference or workshop at the club in the morning, using our lounge and training rooms, then have lunch and go sailing in the afternoon.

“It provides the kind of team building activity which companies like and we give them the opportunity to go sailing and racing. They love it - they enjoy the boat and the sailing and that element of competition. Very quickly they’re out there doing it and they’re not just passengers – there’s string to pull and you have to move about.

“So far the feedback has been excellent. Investing in the right kit makes a big difference – the boats look sporty and the customers are wearing great offshore kit and look the part as well.”

Corporate days can have two teams of up to four in the boats plus a Draycote keelboat instructor helming, and options include rotating participants through 20 minutes of racing, 20 minutes on a RIB running the racing, and 20 minutes ashore for a refreshment break, over a three hour period. On windy days or if there’s just one boat out it could be time trials. 

Aside from businesses, those using the keelboats have included two stag parties, organised in each case when the club was contacted speculatively to see what activities might be available, and two pirate birthday parties for children. Age UK has also hired the SB20s to provide sessions for its members.

All of this activity is generating not only income for the club; it is generating interest in sailing and raising awareness about Draycote Water SC in the wider community, which it is hoped will also spin off into new memberships.

The aim is to eventually run the SB20s daily on the days when the club is not already busy with members’ activities such as Wednesday evening racing or Sunday club racing; while the SB20s are set to develop into an important source of finance for the club, it remains committed to putting its own members and their use of the water first.

Club members can hire the SB20s, although again not during busy club times. And junior members recently had a great time after being invited to jump aboard for a fun session; a video of the occasion made by club member Andy Whitehead can be seen here. Draycote hopes to use the SB20s to help members develop their keelboat and match racing skills.

“This year is all about trying it out and seeing what’s possible, what works and doesn’t work. We’re definitely pleased we’ve done it,” says Dave. “It’s about making the club busy Monday to Friday when it’s not busy with club activity, which was a major selling point to the committee, and it will make money.”  

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