Sail your way to fitness

Gill Womens Inshore Lite Jacket, 135

Gill Womens Inshore Lite Jacket, 135 - Credit: Archant

Sailing is a great way to be active in the great outdoors – and it doesn’t cost the earth to get started

Crewsaver Response Buoyancy Aid, £33.50. All items from Fox's Marine and Country

Crewsaver Response Buoyancy Aid, £33.50. All items from Fox's Marine and Country - Credit: Archant

If you’re thinking of launching yourself into sailing as a new way to enjoy the great outdoors and stay fit, then you need look no further than local girl Saskia Clark for inspiration. The Olympic gold medallist from Mersea Island in Essex learnt much of her sailing from experienced members at Royal Harwich Yacht Club at Woolverstone, just outside Ipswich. You don’t need to aspire to an Olympic medal to enjoy sailing, however. In fact, sailing is one of the most accessible activities, something that people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds can do.

Laurie Vanner, a member and committee member at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, has been sailing most of his adult life, and is a good example of how most people get into the sport. He and his girlfriend (later wife), Sue, had a couple of spare weeks, so they went sailing in a friend’s Mirror, a classic dinghy for training and racing, extremely popular with people just getting into sailing.

Gill Womens Knit Fleece, £75

Gill Womens Knit Fleece, £75 - Credit: Archant

“We did everything wrong, but loved it,” said Laurie, “so we thought it would be a good idea to have some lessons and took ourselves off to dinghy school.” It launched lifetime of active sailing for Laurie, who now sails his own boat and is a great advocate for the sport.

“When you take up any sport it’s always a good idea to take some lessons. All around the country, including in Suffolk, there are RYA centres (Royal Yachting Association) where there are lots of courses you can do.” The courses cover all levels from beginners to improvers and advanced sailors.

Dubarry Capri Ladies Classic Slip On Deck Shoe, £99

Dubarry Capri Ladies Classic Slip On Deck Shoe, £99 - Credit: Archant

“Once you learn to sail you never lose the skill,” said Laurie. And those skills stand you in good stead, whatever size boat you aspire to. Despite its glamorous image, sailing isn’t a rich person’s sport, says Laurie. Most people sail on a budget and a second hand boat is likely to cost you less than a low-end second hand car. Many sailing clubs will hire you a dinghy for a session on the water. Membership of clubs isn’t expensive and it’s great value for children and young people, who can take part in junior sailing events, race against each other and acquire a skill while enjoying all the benefits of being outdoors.

“It encourages independence,” said Laurie. “Once you’re responsible for a boat you can’t call out the AA if something goes wrong, you have to work things out for yourself. You never stop learning. It’s a fantastic sport for families and for kids who love competing. It can be very, very exciting!”

MUSTO Essential Sailing Glove, £19.99

MUSTO Essential Sailing Glove, £19.99 - Credit: Archant

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