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

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

Oulton Broad Water Sports Centre, based close to Lowestoft, has a team of very committed volunteers and helpers, ranging from the youthful through to those in their mid-eighties. 

Phil Crane is an Assistant Instructor, who started sailing in 2005 at Oulton Broad. Here he tells the story about how he got involved in sailing:

“In my mid-twenties I went fishing with a friend in a rowing boat on Fritton Lake. It was cold and windy and the fish were not biting, so we decided to pull up the mud weight and try elsewhere when I had “the idea!” We both had large fishing umbrellas and we put them up, the wind turned us and we shot off at speed “sailing” downwind for half a mile, it was exhilarating! The only problem was that we then had to get back, the umbrellas were of no use so we had to put them away and row for what seemed like forever! Over the years we often laughed about the experience and how much easier it would have been if we had known how to sail back to the hire centre. It wasn’t until I turned 50 that I decided I’d like a challenge and to try something new – I found OBWSC and started sailing”. Now, Phil gets involved with instructing and begin teaching a few years ago – he feels that being a more mature instructor has its advantages – “You’re not in a hurry, not under pressure, and not worried about mistakes – and also have the knowledge that, on most occasions, the worst that can happen is a dip in the Broad!” Phil would encourage anyone to get involved in sailing, and being taught by qualified instructors – he says you have nothing to lose, and if you enjoy it, will gain a skill that will last a lifetime.


Ancient Mariner (aged 83 ½ years) – aka John Seaman started sailing as a retirement hobby, with his 65th birthday gift from his wife being a combined Level 1 & 2 course. This was back in 2001, and John quickly discovered that this was something he was passionate about – his wife observing that his smile got stronger each day he sailed. After completing his powerboat and seamanship qualifications, he started instructing at OBWSC in 2005, and at Waveney Sailability in 2008. Inspired by Geoff Holt, following a chance meeting at the Southampton Boat Show when he was planning for his “personal Everest” solo sail around the UK coast, showing what guts and determination can do, and that a broken neck was an insufficient reason to abandon one’s dream, John continues to be inspired by him, as well as being inspired by local “heroes” through Sailability. John says that he enjoys instructing as he feels useful in helping others, especially youngsters to get hooked on sailing, and has even greater pleasure when these young people go on to qualify as instructors, knowing that sailors have been gaining valuable life skills whilst enjoying their sailing activities. He would encourage anyone to give sailing a go – “Not only will you learn to sail, with all its benefits to physical and mental wellbeing, but you will learn inter-personal skills, including decision-making, individual responsibility for decisions and actions, team building and loyalty, compromise and many more, alongside learning how to get a boat safely from A-to-B. How’s that for value for money?” 

Dot Daines learnt to sail aged 61 initially with the intention of improving her wind direction awareness. At the time she was training for a private pilots licence and had great trouble learning which direction the wind was coming from (as she added – “believe me – learning to fly and land into the wind if your engine fails is a must!”). Her husband suggested learning to sail, so Dot and her eldest daughter signed up for lessons at OBWSC, a decision which would lead to almost 20 years of great challenges, fun and excitement over the years. Dot said: “Once we completed the course my daughter moved on to sailing in her area and is now an instructor encouraging more women to take up sailing. I joined the OBWSC supporters group assisting with courses run by the centre and maintenance. A great way to learn the parts of the boats and how they improve your balance, trim and performance better. Five years later I completed the assistant instructors sailing and motorboat course. I then joined Sailability and felt confident enough to assist those less able to sail on their own. The supporters group sail every Wednesday no matter what the weather throws at us. If it is really bad we practice wind, tide and knot knowledge. We have been on many trips away to places like the Orwell, Deben, Nancy Oldfield trust in North Norfolk, Brightlingsea and the occasional sea experience from Lowestoft to Southwold. Learning to sail in my more mature years has had many benefits including building my confidence and allowing me to meet a great group of people, Wayfarer sailing requires all of us to work together. It has also given me the opportunity to assist with courses for the next generation of sailors, giving them the confidence to have a go.”

“Sailing is a great tutor for learning new skills which can be applied to many different part of your life whilst also being exciting, challenging and a lot of fun, everyone no matter how old you are should experience sailing at least once in their lifetime” she added. At 78 going on 79 she challenges anyone to give sailing a go, as a great way of keeping the brain and body active.


John Holloway, a volunteer at the Centre added that sailing can help individuals with challenges they face, saying “Life experiences you have had can help you through when there are difficult situations, and these give you some authority and standing. Sailing, in particular instructing, improves your own communication abilities and how you express yourself to all age groups, and those with physical and mental abilities”. 

Clive Purvis, who was cited as an inspiration by several of the sailors, is Chief Instructor at OBWSC and said “I have been a Senior and Chief Instructor here at Oulton Broad for longer than I care to remember! However, the support I have from my team just underlines their commitment to both myself and the local community. What other sport do you know where we have such a diverse range of craft and equipment that people can hop into knowing that there is always a trained team to assist them.”

To find out more about Oulton Broad Water Sports Centre visit: http://oultonbroadwatersportscentre.co.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.