Lifelong sailor, Sarah Mitchell first learnt to sail 49 years ago at one of the first RYA recognised training centres. “The school was located on the beautiful shores of Loch Earn (Scotland) and the Principal was ‘The Colonel’ Archie Campbell-Crawford who indeed ran the centre with military precision and great expertise,” Sarah recalls.
“The towering mountains on either side of the loch made our handicapped races very challenging as we tried to predict the icy bullet-like gusts of wind, and the chilly water temperature reinforced our determination not to capsize!” she explains.
From the boats to the clothing, things looked very different to what we’re used to now. “We wore uncomfortable waxed canvas ‘oilskins’, the very basic forerunner to the hi-tech waterproofs we wear today!” says Sarah. “And kapok life jackets which honestly did not provide much floatation when required!”
Sailing for just four months or so each summer when the weather and temperature allowed, Sarah soon went from beginner to dinghy instructor, and remembers her time with the school fondly.
She says: “The students came from many countries worldwide to combine learning to sail with speaking English – what a delightful introduction to the joys of sailing this proved to be.
“I remember those days with great happiness and my love of sailing continues (in warmer climes!) here in Australia where I now live.”
To find out more about the 50th Anniversary and the history of the RYA training schemes, visit www.rya.org.uk/go/50years. For more information about RYA courses go to www.rya.org.uk/training.