First and foremost, Sailing Tasters are about Fun and Sailing safely.
We’ve being doing sailing tasters for a number of years now so you could say that they are always on the go in one way. However, an organisation point of view, they tend to start early in the new year.
The starting point for me is the family calendar and then I consult with RCSSC members who regularly support these days – so we have as many of us available for the actual day as possible. Having a pool of helms and crew who are happy to get involved with taster days in principle, means I can confidently book the dates with our friends at CSSC headed by Jenny Yarrow.
This year there has been a new website and ticketing system introduced – it used to be paper/ phone driven. There have been learning points along the way, but thanks to close collaboration and site testing we’ve got there. This also means I can check out how many are booked in without taking up the time of friends at the CSSC events team.
About a week before the taster day, I check out the CSSC taster list which includes important information such as, contact details, next of kin, sailing experience and most importantly, what does the guest want to get out of their day. This helps me allocate people to boats and crew and brief them on the sailing ability of our guests. There is often the odd call or two between guests to answer their questions.
At this stage I am beginning to keep a very close eye on the weather too. The one time it is 100% correct is when we arrive at the club on the day and see what is actually going on. But it is a useful guide. We have cancelled sailing due to bad weather – we want to give our taster guests a great experience, so for example we would not sail in extremely strong winds for them, though we have been out in F5 and had the odd gusts higher which have made it interesting. Our guests are always impressed at how our helms can take the boat from racing in, to gently coming alongside the pontoon. “How do you do that?” they ask and the answer is simple, “With a lot of practice and experience.”
I also send out a briefing note for the day to all RCSSC volunteers, so we all know the plan for the day. For example, for one recent taster we brought forward the start by half an hour so that our guests got the best wind out of the day. The forecast said the wind would drop significantly from lunch time and, for a while it did go down to almost nothing. Thanks helms and crew and our guests on the day for getting in early.
On the day, I usually arrive early with Mike Threadgill and we start rigging. At about 09:30 I meet up with our guests and give them a standard safety briefing and local rules, especially about wearing buoyancy aids from the moment they get on to the pontoon.
Meanwhile the boats have been magically launched and are in place on the pontoon awaiting our guests. A brief introduction and allocation to boats and we’re off sailing and having fun – which is what the day is all about.
We tend to come in for lunch about 12:00 – 12:30 and it is all too easy to get settled in and enjoying the conversation about the sailing so far. With an eye to giving our guests a full day’s sailing it’s a quick turnaround and we are often back on the boats within 45 mins for the last sailing opportunity for our guests.
We recently had the CSSC taster team down and we took the opportunity to have Mark Gadd, Ace Photographer and PRO, and Peter Shuttleworth on a launch. With our guests agreement, we took over the helm. The wind was brisk and lake choppy making for exciting sailing as we sailed a figure of eight, boats sailing follow my leader around the gently moving launch, with boats at times just a few short feet apart and doing tight turns frequently. It was fun and our guests really enjoyed seeing what these lovely boats can do.
All too soon it’s time to return to the pontoon and recover the boats. Our guests often like to get involved and, under close supervision, they are placing / removing chocks, holding on ropes. The walk up the slope seems a little longer at the end of the day, but there are still boats to put away. Again, often the guests get hands on. They say many hands makes light work and it does. Soon all three boats have been recovered, returned to the boat park, checked for any damage and stowed with bungs out and covers on, all ready to go for the next crew. There is just one thing left to do, if our guests and members have time – the ‘debrief’ in the clubhouse.
Over a glass of something cool, based on what they wanted to get out of the day, how was it for them? To be honest the feedback starts in the boats and we can see big smiles and hear how much they are enjoying their day. It makes our day really worthwhile to share our passion for sailing and hear how much they have enjoyed themselves. As Mike often says, the smiles may need to be surgically removed later.
As organiser, I also realise that those RCSSC members who get involved, also have a great day – this really doesn’t seem like a job if you are having fun too. Smiles all round, it’s all too soon time to leave the veranda/ clubhouse and head off home. I don’t know about everyone else, but after a shower, a meal and a drink, reflecting on another day ‘Sailing in Good Company’ , enjoying the banter, I find I don’t half sleep well that night, if not before.
When do sailing tasters start? Three more sailing tasters to go this season 19 July, 3 August and 6 September – places only left for 6 September taster. We now have the CSSC and Royal Army Pay Corps Association (RAPCA) all booking through the CSSC – another collaboration to get more folks out on the water and prospective members.
Now when is the next one, who’s helming this time, how many guests? What else is going on at RSC that day? It all starts over again, and I am already looking forward to the next one. Thanks to all our volunteer helms and crew, past and present – it really could not happen without you. Good times!
Yours Aye, Dave Grundy