Turning a Sailing Dream Into Reality: Emily's Story

Emily Greves’s sailing journey began one summer evening in 2017 and has proved life changing for her - this is her story.
12 Jun 20

Emily Greves’s sailing journey began one summer evening in 2017 whilst she was working for a local holiday letting company. As part of a holiday promotional film for the Norfolk Broads they sought individuals to be filmed sailing as part of a fictitious family. Having grown up reading “Swallows and Amazons” as a child, and reading biographies by inspirational sailors such as Ellen MacArthur and Tracy Edwards later in life, Emily had always liked the idea of sailing – so put herself forward. It would be this experience that would shape so much of her future.

She said:

“I spent a very lovely evening in a YBOD with my fictitious family, sailing up and down the River Bure. During the evening I had a chance to have a turn on the tiller and will never forget the feeling of power in the mainsheet as the wind filled the sail, it was breath taking. I knew there and then that I would not be satisfied with this one evening of sailing, I HAD to learn to sail and repeat the experience. The skipper on board that evening was an RYA Coach, so the next day I sent him an email and asked if I could book some lessons which he organised through his place of work, and within a month I was having regular lessons. Despite being very nervous to start with, I was really lucky to have met a brilliant instructor who made the learning experience fun and who helped instil faith in my capabilities. I will be forever grateful for his patience and direction.”

Since then, Emily now sails wherever and whenever she can. She went on to become a volunteer with the Nancy Oldfield Trust, after having learned to sail on Barton Broad from where they operate, and sails Yeoman keelboats with fellow volunteer friends in the Trust when she can. This has led to taking part in some racing events with the volunteers and, in addition, she sails on a Tuesday evening with other members of the Norfolk Punt Club, who are also based on Barton Broad. In 2018, the opportunity to work within the sailing industry arose and Emily now works in the office at Norfolk Broads Yacht Club, and is looking forward to getting on the water when current restrictions allow.

Emily has had some very memorable sailing experiences – but there are three in particular that stand out. The first was her first proper lesson, when she recalls being nervous and excited all at once. She remembers screaming with joy at one point and having the biggest smile on her face at the end of the session. The second was an exhilarating sail in a traditional Broads Boat during a local regatta, crewing for a friend, and together winning the pennant for the fastest boat in class, and enjoying every second – despite a soaking when the heavens opened! The third was during a club race night last season, when, on a perfect summer’s evening, Emily and her friend had hired a Club Yeoman, and Emily helmed the boat during race. They enjoyed lots of giggling and chatting attempting to catch a breath of wind, and earned the nickname ‘Chat Boat’ whenever they sail together!

Emily’s favourite boats to sail are Yeoman Keelboats, although she is keen to keep progressing her skills and to push herself out of her comfort zone. From her office window at NBYC she watches the youngsters zipping across Wroxham Broad in 29ers, Feva's etc, so has bought a second hand Topper with the intention of getting to grips with single handed dinghy sailing this year, and upgrading later. Unfortunately the current situation with Covid-19 has put her dinghy 'journey' on hold for the time being.

Emily explains why she loves sailing: 

“As a working Mum of two it is sometimes tricky to find a way to switch off, but when I am sailing it absorbs me, the focus and attention that sailing requires allows me to simply 'be in the moment'. I love the feeling of being out in the open and each sail being very different from the last. I enjoy sailing in the summer but more so in the winter when the waterways are quieter and there's a bracing northerly wind in my face. My only sail of 2020 was in January with a fellow friend who owns a Yeoman, it was a really cold day and we were the only boat on the Broad, it was perfect.

Emily sailing a keelboat with a crew 

For me it is also so much more than getting into a boat and thinking about the wind - its looking at the stunning scenery, spending time with like-minded people, trying to improve technique, and learning from my mistakes, of which there have most certainly been a few along the way. Whilst sailing is mainly 'my thing,' my son sometimes comes along to crew, and my daughter is keen to learn. I love that sailing can be done singularly or shared with friends and family, can be leisurely or competitive, that it can be enjoyed by all ages and, now, thanks to places such as the Nancy Oldfield Trust and other Sailability Centres, it is accessible to all. Sailing would not be the same without the company of such amazing people. I have been so lucky to meet some wonderful people over the past three years, and I have found the sailing community to be very welcoming, helpful and encouraging – it’s a wonderful community to be a part of.”

To anyone thinking about getting involved in sailing, Emily said:

“Absolutely go for it. As hard and frustrating as it can seem to begin with, when all you want to do is just 'get it', you won't look back. Gradually it will become instinctive and you will love it and catch the bug. Oh and also, maybe try and learn a little bit of the lingo and parts of the boat in advance, it will help you no end. There are plenty of handy tips to be found on the RYA website for those looking for places to learn or advice on which path to take, I was just super lucky to be in the right boat at the right time with the right person and didn't have to do any real research. Finding a club which offers training would also be helpful, it is good to surround yourself with those who have years of experience and knowledge”

She added:

“For me it has been quite literally life changing and I am now very fortunate to be able to enjoy sailing with some super people and work within an industry that I love and am passionate about. I am hoping at some point in the future to become an Instructor, I would love to be in a position to be able to inspire and encourage others, and share this love of sailing.”

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 30 June 2020 – this date will be regularly reviewed.