LET’S face it, we’re a seafaring nation. The greatest part of Britain’s history has been spent dominating the seas and protecting our island from unwelcome visitors and whether we like to admit it or not, most Britons fancy themselves as natural seafarers – it’s in the genes, isn’t it?
So now that the days are drawing out and we can at least start to dream about spring and summer, why not get along to the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace and take a look at the extraordinary selection of sailing dinghies on display.
The show, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year on Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6, is the only show in the world devoted entirely to the art of dinghy sailing and will, this year, have an amazing variety of boats on display along with specialist exhibits dealing with tuition, getting started in a dinghy, improving your racing techniques and generally helping you get the most out of your time on the water.
Things have changed a bit since I first learned to sail. As a ‘baby boomer’ born in 1950, I vividly remember sitting beside the river at Kingston watching the gentlemen sailing their Thames Raters – beautiful stately boats that could achieve incredible speeds when properly handled.
I thought at the time that I’d never be able to sail because there was no way I would ever be able to afford a boat of my own.
And then along came the likes of Barry Bucknall (the man who designed the original plywood–built Mirror dinghy) and Jack Holt (the brains behind boats like the GP14 and the Enterprise) and suddenly sailing became a realisable dream.
My brother taught me to sail in a GP14 he’d built himself and I haven’t looked back since.
I’ve managed to capsize an Enterprise off the Suffolk coast, sail up and down the Thames in a Scottish fisherman’s dory (again lovingly rebuilt by my brother), been rescued by the RNLI when the same boat started to take on too much water in heavy seas off the coast of Sussex and spent innumerable happy days leaning over the side of various dinghies on lakes and rivers all over the UK. I’ve also stood at the helm of a number of bigger boats ranging from a 24-foot sloop up to a 60-foot round-the-world racing yacht.
But dinghy sailing is awesome fun and I can heartily recommend the Dinghy Show for anyone interested in learning more.
Admission to the show is priced at £11 for adults and £5 for children on the Saturday. Kids go free on Sunday and there are adult discounts for RYA members.
Would you like to win a free trip to the show? I’ve got five pairs of tickets to give away to the first five names out of the hat who can answer this simple question:
What was the name of the man who designed the Mirror dinghy?
Send your answers on a postcard (not forgetting to include your name, address and a contact telephone number) to: Dinghy Show Competition, Riverwatch, Surrey Herald, 89 Eastworth Road, Chertsey, KT16 8DX or email me at mortsmith [at] trinitysouth.co.uk.