by John Renouf
Marlow Sailing Club (MSC) is a friendly and laid-back sailing club with a small site on the Berkshire bank of the River Thames a short distance upstream from the National Sports Centre at Bisham Abbey. The site has a good river frontage with a slipway, and sailing here is characterised by the necessity to have long narrow race courses, a steady water flow in one direction, the presence of tree-line banks that have a significant effect on wind, and the continual presence of other watercraft of every type from stand-up paddleboards and rowing boats to motor cruisers of all shapes and sizes.
The day of the 2023 Try-a-Wanderer event (postponed from May due to poor river conditions and a water-logged club site) at MSC fell within the unusually fine and warm spell (for the time of year) of weather in October. MSC had chosen to combine the event with its own “Try-a-Sail” public open day aimed at providing on-the water sailing experience trips thereby recruiting new sailors to our sport.
The day dawned bright and fair with cloudless skies and, unfortunately, negligible wind gusting to not much more. As if to emphasise the lack of wind, a hot-air balloon passed low over the site during the morning and landed in a field not far away. A gentle breeze gradually filled in as the day progressed, enough to allow dinghies to make upstream progress against the flow of the river and make any first-time sail a pleasant experience.
Visitors began to arrive, both individuals and family groups al eager to get out on the water. Club member Susan Laight was kept busy giving trips out in her Wanderer 1400 “Blu Tack”, and other boat, including Graham Hartstone’s Comet Versa and the Club’s elderly Gull were also put to good use. Even the author’s own Wanderer 1518 “Gentle Joy” made an appearance on the water having been commandeered by his six-year-old granddaughter for her first ever experience under sail. Keen to “do something to help” in the boat she quickly mastered handling the jib sheets during tacking and felt very pleased with herself.
The pleasant conditions enticed other club members out onto the water, including Peter Simon’s Wanderer 888, and younger members putting the Club’s Toppers and Oppies to good use. Dalis Davies and Andrew Carter, both Wanderer sailors, volunteered to forego the opportunity to sail and manned the support boat for the day, thereby providing reassurance that help was always at hand should it be needed.
Whilst the day generated only a modest number of visitors, those that came were very interested in the Club and in the boats that they were taken on the water in and, naturally, the virtues of the Wanderer as a safe and versatile family boat were emphasised at every opportunity. A positive end-result was three family groups signing up to club membership.