Shotley Point Yacht Club, based at Shotley Marina, close to Ipswich,Suffolk, has seen great success in recent years with the introduction of their“Crew Pool” project in 2015, which matches up boat owners with crew members. Projects such as the “Crew Pool” aim to counter the perception that yacht sailing is expensive, elitist and inaccessible and break down these barriers in order to attract new members with an affordable package. Members can join the Club through the scheme, and learn sailing skills through it. One of the “Crew Pool” members, Kevin Gillard, got involved three years ago after moving to the area and explains his aims and aspirations for the future of the project.
As a child, Kevin had always dreamt of sailing, having been inspired through Lord Nelson Ladybird Books, and seeing the achievements of sailors such as Sir Francis Chichester, Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, Claire Francis and Chay Blyth. However, being brought up in the East of London, the closest he could get was through row boats on park lakes. So, for much of his adult life, the books had to fulfil the desire to live a life on an ocean wave. Almost 50 years later, and an impulsive decision led to this dream becoming a reality.
After several knee operations put Kevin out of action for a while, he decided that he had enough of sitting down looking through his window at the house opposite in Romford and decided to move to the country by the sea and retire. So, he just put a pin in a map, albeit through the internet, and decided on Shotley Gate near Ipswich. When researching the area further there was a marina and Shotley Point Yacht Club in the village, and by chance, the RYA Push the Boat Out Day was happening soon, where you could have a try out, and they had a Crew Pool which paired new sailors who did not own a boat, and ‘old’ sailors who needed extra help to sail.
He explained what happened next:
“I phoned the Commodore Phill Barnes asking if there was a chance I could attend for a ‘try out’ and could he accommodate someone who was not too mobile as I was only six months in from my operation. Phill said it was no problem and he would get a suitable boat which is easier to get on and off. So, I went along, had a try and joined straightaway. As my house move from Romford to Shotley Gate was not going to plan (it took me 18 months and I lost out on two houses) I was determined to get myself established in the village and sailing, ready for my move. So, I attended nearly every event training day for the first year. I even camped in the back field of a local pub one weekend when I could not get home and back the next day for some on-shore social fun.”
During his first season Kevin familiarized himself with boats, his second season he attained Competent Crew, and during his third season he gained Day Skipper theory and practical.
He feels he gained a lot through getting involved:
“The benefits I think I have gained from being a member of the Crew Pool are the challenge of a new adventure, a sense of belonging, with boat owners wanting me to crew for them, friendship, a social life, and the joy of meeting new people. Being a member of the Crew Pool benefits both the Crew Pool member and the boat owners who are shorthanded. The Commodore and the Crew Pool Manager encourage newbies to progress up the education route. Now, as a way of giving back to this friendly club I am on the Committee in the role of a Quartermaster and Office Manager. The future goal is to progress to being a boat owner.”
This is where the next part of Kevin’s plan comes into action. Whilst purchasing a boat alone would be out of his reach, he thought that a syndicate was the best way forward. Several people were in the same situation, and thus would enable a boat to be used more. As he adds, “If things go wrong and need repairing many hands make light work and of course we might have different skills. If there is a mix of different levels of skills/knowledge we can learn from each other and not feel on our own. So, we had to decide on what kind of boat, how long, what price, general maintenance costs, and how many part owners were needed. This worked out to be a much more reasonable way of getting onto the water.”
Unfortunately for the time being, the syndicate project has come to a halt for 2020 because of COVID-19 and the lockdown, but hopefully by 2021 it will be up and running and sailing. Kevin said:
“I often wonder where and what I'd be doing if I had not made the leap of faith and moved to be sailing on the beautiful rivers Orwell and Stour and the coast line of the East of England, and belonging to the most friendly of clubs.”
To find out more about the Crew Pool Project and Shotley Point Yacht Club visit: https://www.shotleypyc.org/
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.