FANCY doing something a little different this weekend? If so, why not get yourself down to Staines Sailing Club to take advantage of their free ‘Go Boating’ day on Saturday, June 7 between 11am and 5pm.
The club, which prides itself on being one of the friendliest on the Thames, is keen to attract new members and is staging its annual recruitment drive by offering members of the public an opportunity to try sailing – accompanied by an experienced club member – in one of their fleet of boats which include Moths, Enterprises and Wayfarers. Buoyancy aids will be provided but it might be an idea to bring a change of clothes and suitable footwear.
Membership secretary Joyce Threadgill is hopeful that this year’s event will produce a good influx of new faces for the club.
“At the peak of interest in sailing in the 1960s – when the exploits of Francis Chichester and Alec Rose helped to raise the profile of the sport – we had around 300 members,” Joyce recalled. “But with youngsters spending more time on their computers than out in the fresh air, our numbers have dwindled over recent years. Now we’re down to fewer than 100 regulars.”
Which is a great shame given the club’s lovely setting and welcoming atmosphere.
Joyce’s husband, Peter, is the club’s rear commodore and has been sailing since the 1960s when he and a friend decided to build their own boat – a Mirror dinghy.
“It was billed as something that was easy for the average handyman to undertake – but it took us nearly 18 months to complete it,” Peter chuckled.
When the project was complete, Peter looked around for a suitable stretch of water on which to sail and eventually decided that Staines offered the right solution. He and Joyce moved into the town shortly afterwards.
The club has existed since the 1930s, although it was originally called the Staines Yacht Squadron and was based at Tim’s Boathouse close to Staines railway bridge.
The outbreak of war in 1939 suspended sailing activities but by 1942 conditions allowed it to get under way once more and a few boats came back onto the water. Amongst the obstacles encountered by the helmsmen in those days were the barges moored in mid-stream to prevent enemy seaplanes from landing. These days, powered cruisers and narrow boats are more the order of the day.
In 1962, the club moved to its present home at 105 Chertsey Lane when the delightful riverside property, formerly a doctor’s surgery, came up for sale. Members all chipped in by lending the club £25 to enable the purchase of the bungalow for around £8,000.
Depending on river and weather conditions, Staines SC has races most Sundays between May and October but Joyce Threadgill is quick to point out that the club is as happy to welcome purely social members as it is enthusiastic yachtsmen and women.
“We are a friendly bunch and we’re one of the cheapest sailing clubs on the river. Family membership is just £80 a year and there is a charge of £40 if you want to leave a boat in the dinghy park. Social members pay just £25 a year,” she added.
“We praying for good weather at the weekend and we hope that lots of people will come down to have a go,” says Joyce. “Failing that, prospective members are welcome to come down any Sunday afternoon to have a look.”