UP FOR THE CHALLENGE: Reporter Neill Barston tries to get his sea legs

W36011H11 WH UP FOR THE CHALLENGE SAILING PIC S.G. 02.09.2011''Up For the Challenge Sailing at Worthing Yacht Club. Names from Neill W36011h11
W36011H11 WH UP FOR THE CHALLENGE SAILING PIC S.G. 02.09.2011''Up For the Challenge Sailing at Worthing Yacht Club. Names from Neill W36011h11

WITH fond memories of sailing with my father and friends in the Worthing area fresh in my mind, I approached our Up for the Challenge with a fair deal of optimism.

But in reality, my experiences proved a tale of two very contrasting voyages.

The first of these proved a blustery late summer’s afternoon which will linger long in the memory for not quite the reasons I was expecting.

As we assembled at the town’s sailing club in Marine Walk, Goring, the conditions were gusting a tricky force five wind – just the kind of weather adrenaline-seeking kite surfers and excitable children in small dinghies favour in spades.

Unfazed, Worthing Sailing Club instructor John Cooper swiftly rigged our boat with practised ease.

It is the club’s latest investment, a sleek, 15ft Laser Bahia fibreglass dinghy which is proving popular with its growing membership.

Having such a new vessel at our disposal was definitely confidence-inspiring and I attempted to recall my Royal Yachting Association training, gained as a teenager in Bosham.

But to my dismay, not long after launching at low tide we were hit by some unpredictable gusts.

These promptly upended our boat in untimely fashion.

Swimming was definitely not part of my original script – but I’ve never been one to give up on anything lightly and, thankfully, our second outing was far more rewarding.

After prep work on the boat, myself, John and club member Nigel Jupp took to the water with far more decorum.

Taking up a role as crew, I operated the Laser’s jib foresail as we tracked the wind through tacking and jibe manoeuvres which form the basis of competitive sailing.

Learning these moves is critical to successful sailing and a crucial element of developing seamanship and we even managed to briefly put up our extended third spinnaker sail for a while and really put the boat through its paces.

It’s hard to adequately put into words just how addictive it is – it’s something that really gets under your skin and I’ll happily recommend it to anyone.

After gaining four decades of sailing experience, John clearly is in no danger of losing his obvious passion for taking to the water and reveals club membership is up 25 per cent.

He said: “We’ve put a big effort into our open days and our training for people that we started three years ago for children in the Laser Bugs.

“This has brought in a lot of children and their parents, which is really good.

“I think everyone should have a go at sailing as it’s something you get a lot out of.

“It’s all about learning to communicate with people and relying on others which is something that’s a good lesson for youngsters to achieve.”

John is hopeful the Worthing club, which is agreeing a plan for fully rebuilding its existing facilities will become a full training centre.