Celebrating the East Region's "Older" Instructors in Essex

The East Region is proud of the diverse range of ages of instructors that are teaching within clubs, with some a little more experienced than others.
01 Apr 20

One such example is Jim McNaughton, a retired Maths teacher who, incredibly at the age of almost 90 is still teaching night classes at West Mersea Yacht Club, and over the winter has been running what is believed to be the largest Ocean Yachtmaster shorebased class incorporating Astro navigation. 

Jim recounts how he became involved in instructing, over forty years ago:

"Way back in the 1970s Roy Aspinall, a highly experienced offshore and ocean racer who later became West Mersea Yacht Club Commodore, thought it would be a good idea to look into the RYA training scheme and see if it would be useful for WMYC members to be encouraged to participate.

He went on a course with an examination to become a Yachtmaster, or so he thought. It was actually an Examiners' course! His luck was in; it blew furiously, just the weather Roy loved. He duly passed the course and became an Examiner.

He suggested to Commander Bill Anderson, who at the time was in charge of the RYA Training Schemes, that we could run shorebased courses at the WMYC, having enough experienced sailors who were members of the Royal Ocean Racing Club to do it. Bill Anderson agreed and since I was Roy's navigator I became one of the team. I am the only one of the originals left, so naturally I became Principal of the school.

Jim has had a varied sailing career, which has seen many changes in technology and equipment –amongst his experiences using a sextant for navigation on the Fastnet Race, and due to having no GPS or VHF in those days, communicated with another yacht in Morse Code using a signal lamp. He later became an Examiner for the RYA qualifications.

He explained how his mathematical background has helped him to teach sailing, and how he is still enthusiastic about teaching today: “I am able to go through the theory of spherical trigonometry, which is the background to Astro Navigation. Even at my age I seem to be able to teach with enough enthusiasm to encourage my students. This winter and the next will see me reach age 90. I hope I make it. In any case I have a good team of instructors working with me. I have found my wide experience of many types of vessels invaluable. I have even berthed a coal fired steam engined Clyde Puffer in a tight spot in the Fisher Dock at East Tarbet!"

West Mersea Yacht Club can be found on West Mersea Island, close to Colchester. More information can be found on the Club’s website: http://www.wmyc.org.uk/

For more information about how to get out on the water in the East Region, once the current Coronavirus prevention restrictions are lifted, visit www.rya.org.uk/go/startboating.

Please note: At the time of going to print and based on the Government’s advice and guidance on the developing Coronavirus situation, the RYA has suspended all RYA organised events until at least 31 May 2020 – this date will be regularly reviewed. This includes OnBoard events and activities.