[Photos Iain Philpott, Harry Bowerman & Jonathan Dakin]
The last time sport raised its head at OoL, I got slapped down for daring to suggest that exercise would solve many issues and heaven forbid – good diet as well.
So while the libertarians have been going on about the right to eat junk and be a couch potato, I’ve politely held my tongue. As a former sports/gamesmaster in schools though – yes, that hated breed that so many commented on last time – it’s predictable what my view on exercise and diet would be.
Which is not quite the same thing as Tracey Crouch who wants to fund only major sports and leave the others to sink or swim.
And my immediate question is – where does this leave sailing? And what of cycling? Both have had world champions of late and are poster sports for Britain in the world. Ben Ainslie, whatever you think of him, whatever you think of those plastic monstrosities masquerading as America’s Cup boats, has done Britain a power of good, not least for the role model as a hard-as-nails competitor, something Britain has lacked for a long time.
As for the Olympics, sorry to say this but Australia went down a similar path – the govt [taxpayer] funded AIS, the slow increase from lowly numbers of golds at the Olympics, to their zenith in 2000. Then down again.
And this is what is being reported. With the options for young people porn, sex, drugs, gaming, social media, all abetted by leftist teachers, sport doesn’t quite cut it the same way anymore. The namby-pamby dropping of games and PE at many schools to an afterthought, rather than as a key aspect of children’s development, what is pouring billions into sport in Britain going to actually achieve?
Particularly with all the dead wood at the top?
Sometimes I despair at my own sport/pastime of sailing. The days of Sea Scouts, the International Cadet dinghy, the way the young naturally took to the water all around them – those are gone. However, in my search for a good yacht club for my boat in the local area, it really was heartening to see that the field of sailing has not died.
The RYA is robust, its credentials are the world benchmark other countries have adopted now for years and the attitude of yacht clubs in my local area has been fabulous – they can’t wait to have another member, another yacht, though they were a bit askance at the length of my boat – 42 feet. It seems most are around the 25 to 30 foot mark and slipways, haulage firms etc. seem to cater more for these. Just how they’ll take my square junk rig canvas sails is another thing too.
The clubs stress something right up front – all of them do – that you don’t need to have a boat. Just rock on up and they’ll put you on one for a sail. Yachties, as a community, can be as boring as rugby devotees mulling it over and dissecting it after the game but their hearts are generally pretty good and I’ve not known yachties yet who were not welcoming – perhaps in some of the fuddy duddy Royal clubs but even that is a slur. I’ve known the committee of some of those to be welcoming too.
So it’s a wonderful way to exercise, the marine tradition in this country is second to none in the world, perhaps rivalled by Denmark to a point and upon the sea is where we all belong or to put it another way – where we might all be driven if the country is taken over the way it’s going.
The RNLI is obviously my charity of choice [with the Mike Cunningham caveat of course].
If mums and dads were to drive their progeny down to a local sailing club and say to them – give a try, kids, a couple of weekends and see if you like it, who knows? It might achieve something.
Any parent can self-build a dinghy, second hand ones are dirt cheap, sailing club memberships are £80 to 140 per annum for an adult [there are family and junior memberships of course] and there’s a wealth of support for members, not least from other members. It’s a healthy environment.
At least consider it.
The freedom of sailing is beyond expression – some have said it is the second best feeling in the world. The feeling on the water is that of peace and calm, of utter freedom to go where you want, when you want and no one telling you what to do. Hence the connection with OoL.
And one more thing. In this highly over-regulated society, there’s one area where, apart from COLREGs and obvious safety considerations, a person can still build a boat and put it on the water with very few constrictions and constraints.
A British boat can still go here, there and everywhere at whim, as long as a voyage plan is left with someone – but that’s not regulation, that’s sheer common sense. Not even the EU can kill off sailing in this country.