Discovering sailing at Gravesend Sailing Club

Sailing novice Emma Blackmore tells how she discovered sailing with a little help from Gravesend Sailing Club......
23 May 23
Discover Sailing at GSC

Tucked away at the end of the promenade, Gravesend Sailing Club is a hidden gem. When I visit the club the atmosphere is electric, filled with laughter and chatter. A young girl secures her buoyancy aid and walks down the pontoon to board a dinghy. An instructor follows her down. Closer to the BBQ, there’s a mum with her baby, husbands and wives, and friends who greet each other warmly. They are from all walks of life and all sorts of backgrounds, but they are united through their love of sailing.

As a sailing novice, I’m a little nervous. I’m sitting with the club’s training principal, buoyancy aid on, about to try the club’s Discover Sailing taster session. The free sessions run every two weeks throughout the warmer months. With the glorious summer sun beating down, I ask him his advice for anyone who has never sailed before and who might be anxious about getting on the water.

“Just give it a go! It’s safe. We are careful to make sure that boats don’t capsize and with floatation devices at the top of the masts, if the boats do go over, they won’t invert. There’s also an engine-powered safety boat on duty during the beginner’s sessions. There is an adrenaline rush when the boat heels over a little bit, but that’s the fun part! It’s exciting.”

The club is eager to create opportunities to breathe new life into the club, which currently has 141 members. They hope to make sailing accessible and more affordable to more people, especially young people.

Our conversation is interrupted by an instructor telling me my boat is ready. Peter, an instructor whose sailing careers spans over 50 years, helps me into a Wayfarer dinghy, one of three that are club-owned.

As we sail I focus on Peter’s instructions. I have two white ropes in my hand that attach to the jib, the triangular sail in front of the main sail. I keep them taut and close to my body as I listen to Peter, who is sitting at the back controlling the main sail and rudder.

So far, we have sailed in a straight line, but now it’s time to turn. The wind has picked up slightly. I pull the ropes from the right to the left and duck as the boom flies to the other side of the boat. We start to turn and I lose my balance a little, shifting to the right as the boat heels over slightly.

Naturally, Peter is not fussed. “You’re doing really well,” he encourages. I get used to the routine, the ropes tight in my hand, the ducking down, reading the wind and water. Of course, I absolutely appreciate that Peter is doing all the work with the main sail but in that moment, as the setting sun reflects off the water, I feel empowered.

When we return to the club, I’m met with food and warm conversation. I speak to Kevin, a member from Ireland who joined the club three years ago with his young family. “Sailing is a great break away from work and a great way to meet people, especially after Covid-19. “The club is very supportive,” he smiles. “The instructors are really encouraging and everyone helps each other.”

Find out how and where you can discover sailing 

See more about Gravesend Sailing Club which is an RYA Recognised Training Centre