Healthy Havering: Have a go at sailing in Upminster
PUBLISHED: 17:11 03 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:10 10 October 2018
"It's like a race in slow motion."
The weather was perfect - a lovely blue sky and lots of sun, but for the sailors at Stubbers Adventure Centre in Ockendon Road, Upminster the lack of wind was a problem.
For this week’s instalment in the Recorder’s Healthy Havering campaign, I experienced another way to get active with the Havering Sailing Club.
Once a week, members of the club gather on a Saturday afternoon to take part in a race around the lake.
With dinghy boats of different sizes and shapes, the winner isn’t necessarily the first across the finish line.
The sailors take into account the handicap some of the boats might have, for example a one-manned boat will naturally go faster than a bigger three-person boat.
Doug Bambrick and his son William Bambrick, eight, kindly let me sail with them in their boat. Doug remained alert, making sure that we were ready and in the right position to catch the wind when it came.
Peter Banfield, one of the founding members of the club compared sailing to playing a game of chess.
He said: “You have to think ahead to what you’re going to do, where’s the wind and what positions other people are in.”
With the tranquil weather that day, I saw many comparisons between sailing and the strategic game of chess.
The sailors had to take chances with where they thought the best wind might be, and sometimes help each other as they navigated their way around the buoys on the course.
After about half an hour of sailing, we found ourselves drifting towards the finish line, nose to nose with another dinghy.
Despite the lack of speed I found myself getting into the competitive spirit.
“It’s like a race - in slow motion,” said Doug.
With inches between us, our dinghy crossed the finish line first to the sound of a loud horn announcing our feat.
After racing, the sailors gathered for lunch and I got the opportunity to hear more from the club members about what attracted them to the sport.
“Sailing is beautiful. I love water, and when you come out here you just forget everything,” said Peter.
“It’s very easy, all you need is experience and that we can give to members.
“We take them out and show them what to do and eventually they’re out on their own with a safety boat chasing them around.”
Mark Earley, the commodore at the club, discovered sailing when he came along for an open day about eight years ago.
He said: “I had a little go on a wet surf and I thought this seems like fun, and I’ve been coming every Saturday since.”
Havering Sailing Club began as a school organisation about 45 years ago. It was then resuscitated by school teachers and members of the National and Local Government Officers’ Association led by Mike Cullen.
Peter said: “From the first couple of years when we towed the dinghy and safety boat to Pitsea Creek and shared the rising tide with the rubbish falling from the garbage barges from London.
“Then of course several years spent on the lake at South Ockendon when most of us were a lot younger and it was only ice that stopped us sailing every Saturday.
“Then our dear friend Ken Elmer achieved our move to Stubbers by the kind invitation of the then council manager of the centre Rick Grice.”
Since then the Sailing Club has hosted quiz nights, barn dances, lunches and walks, many of which are organised by the club’s secretary, John Pledger.
“Our more experienced members take part in the annual Round Mersea Island Dinghy Race,” added Peter
“We are a very small club but we have achieved the top five in this lovely event.
“Sailing is a great social activity as well as a great sport to take part in whether you are ultra competitive or totally laid back - just enjoy.”
Havering Sailing Club is open on Saturdays from 12 to 6pm. For more information visit haveringsailingclub.org.uk.