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Dinghy Sailing

Robin in Laser II Dinghy at White Rose Sailing Association

My first experience of Dinghy Sailing, in fact my first experience of any form of sailing came in France at the age of 11. We had a family holiday in Beg Meil, on Concarneau bay, which we shared with another family who had a home buit dinghy with a Heron rig. As the eldest of three brothers and mry frined Kester also being the eldest, we had almost free rein on the dinghy and sailed every day for three weeks, including making trips across the bay to Concarneau. We also slept aboard a couple of times under a home made awning. Altogether we had great adventures and the best possible introduction to sailing.

After that I took any opportunity to sail, which came mostly in the form of trips to Christchurch with the scouts, where the County Youth Service had a fleet of Firefly dinghies. These trips were, of neccesity, occasional as the boats were used by many organisations and our access was limited.

Things looked up in 1969 when, aged 13, I became a boarder at Allhallows School near Lyme Regis. The school had an active sailing section and pretty soon, having proved that I would not be a loss to the cricket team, this became my sumnmer sport with sailing every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. The school had a mixed fleet of dinghies, including a Kestrel, a Wineglass a Cadet and a Graduate. Bill Preston, the teacher who ran the sailing, also owned a Scorpion which he was happy to lend to competent members of the sailing group. In addition to the dinghies there were a few Percy Blandford designed PBK kayaks. These were great for exploring the estuary when conditions wre too rough for sailing.

The school sailing was based out of Axe Yacht Club, which in those days had a very lively dinghy section. (Nowadays it is mostly a small yacht cruising club). The club were very happy for students at the school to compete in club racing and so on Sundays I would sail in the club series using the school's Graduate. I managed some pretty good results but was always limited in the series by not being around during the school holidays.

As well as the school boats some of our members brought their own boats, including an International OK, a Gull, a GP14 and a Cherub, in which I had my first experiences of crewing a high perfomance development class. We also had a school sailing team, which regularly raced against other schools. Not having a one-design fleet we were unable to host but had several away trips team racing in 420's and other classes.

Two year into my time at Allhallows I joined the boat owning elite with the purchase, jointly with my brother Jon, of an International 505. It was a very early Fairey Marine mouldsed one with sail number 16. It bore the name Yandy, which I was given to believe was bcause it had originally belonged to the founder of Yachts and Yachting magazine. We sailed this at school and in club races, usually with me at the helm and Jon crewing. We also joined Weston Sailing Club on Southampton Water, where we sailed and raced during the school holidays. This proved to be very fruitful as, with several former world, european and natioinal champiions racing there, the standard was very high and I learned a great deal.

Going to University in Hull in 1974 I joined the University saling club, which owned a fleet of Lark dinghies. These were based at Beaver Sailing Club near Snaith. As well as training sessions and informal sailing I was involved in the university sailing team for a number of matches. Part way through my time at University, with me in Hull and Jon now based in Plymouth and unable to sail together we took the reluctant decision to sell the 505.

In 1976, having left university I took a seasonal job as a sailing instructor with the YMCA at Fairthorne Manor, near Botley, which was, at the time, one of two YMCA National Outdoor Activity Centres. For 6 months I worked there teaching on one week introductory sailing courses from Fairthorne Manor's sailing base on board "Jason", a converted Thames Lighter moored in the River Hamble, close to what is now Mercury Marina. Sailing took place in a fleet of Wayfarer dinghies. Most days we would sail out into Southampton Water and if the weather was good enough the climax to a week's course would be to cross the Solent to Cowes.

I moved on from Fairthorne to spend a few years as a Youth Leader with the YMCA in Bournemouth I didn't do a lot of sailing but had occasional opportunities to introduce club members to sailing using the same fleet of Fireflies in Christchurch.

Afther this I moved to an outdoor centre in the Peak District where I was mostly teaching Rock Climbing and Caving and other mountain activities and sailing consisted of occasional dinghy or keelboat hire whilst on holiday.

Fast forward to 2008. I had now been living in Ripon, North Yorkshire, for many years and in recent years had returned to sailing River Cruiser yachts on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. As a result of this Broads sailing I had joined The Norfolk Broads Forum. In January 2008 I responded to a post on the forum and in short order found myself in posession of a somewhat neglected Laser II dinghy. Repairs were needed to strengthen the mast step and a new self baler was required but I had her ready for the start of the 2008 season.

I joined White Rose Sailing Association, my local club. For the next few years, when not away offshore sailing, I raced regularly with them, usually single handed. Being based on the narrow River Ure and much blanketed by trees the club has a traditoin of racing what are normally 2 man classes singlehanded. Since I moved to Gosport in 2013, the dinghy has remained in Ripon and all of my sailing has either been offshore or on the Broads.

Laser II on the Ure

When I moved to Gosport in 2013, the dinghy remained in Ripon and I concentrated on either sailing offshore or on the Broads. However this year (2016) I decided to get back in to some dighy sailing. In January I completed a dinghy instructor's skills assessment, with a view to qualifying as an instructor later in the year. I have also joined Hill Head Sailing Club with the inention of dinghy racing when I'm free and also getting involved with training. So far (April 2016) I have managed to get out for four races.