As well as improving their sailing skills further, some are also hoping to qualify again as sailing and powerboat instructors. However, it is the camaraderie they have been able to develop alongside the physical and mental benefits of sailing that has made the biggest impact on lives blighted by the long lasting effects of post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.
The group from Rochdale and Tameside Ex-Forces and Veterans started their sailing journey with a dedicated eight week course at the Hollingworth Lake Activity Centre. They followed that by entering the Royal Yacht Association Sailability Multi-class Regatta and bringing home a trophy.
One of those on the course, Steve Casey explains: "PTSD meant I lost confidence so I hadn't sailed for ten years. It also affects how you feel about meeting people. I heard about the course and thought I'd have a go. It's the sense of freedom you get from sailing, as well as the social aspect of it."
Steve works as a search dog handler but points out that most of the other veterans on the course are not employed so they are trying to get funding so the proposed Veterans Sailing Group can pay for sessions on the water. He is hoping to re-qualify as a powerboat instructor.
Another veteran Graham Braithwaite summed it up: "It’s a great way to relax and get away from the stresses of life as it puts your mind into a different mindset." He says they have already set up a fishing group as a result of the social contacts they made.
One of the instructors at Hollingworth Lake was Ben Glynn: "Everyone involved since the first taster day has walked away with more confidence and with a renewed and refreshed skill set or a completely new skill."
The activity was funded through the Sail After Service programme organised by Rochdale Council and supported by Link4Life, the RYA and Moving Forces.
Caen Matthews, himself a veteran, who manages Sail After Service says "The aim of the scheme was to bring veterans together with a shared purpose and, judging by the feedback we have had, it has been a resounding success.” Caen joined the team at the Regatta:“It was a fantastic weekend and we were honoured to be representing the borough of Rochdale at such a prestigious sporting occasion. There were plenty of thrills and spills out on the water, but we performed with credit and enjoyed every minute. "