My sailing had started as a pastime in 1975 when I took lessons at West Kirby. I bought a Heron dinghy to take the children sailing on the marine lake at the weekends. The Springer spaniel loved it. I restored the dinghy by degrees over a four year period.

    I originally joined the West Cheshire Sailing Club in 1992 when I bought a GP14 sailing dinghy. To leave the boat at the club I would have to join. No great hardship they seemed a really great crowd friendly and helpful. They invited me to join the committee but I declined explaining that if ICI was run by a committee it would still be a chemist shop. I played an active role on the sailing and social side. The races were often run in some appalling weather conditions and the emergency services were called out more than once. It turned out that my GP14 was a hybrid, a cross between an enterprise (mast and sails) and a GP14 hull. This configuration worked well in the often rough sea conditions. Nobody seemed to mind that the boat was not in class when we raced. Until we started to get in front that was. Then it was deemed to have mystical properties and given an unrealistic handicap to rectify the problem. It became apparent in time that the boat had no special properties other than a helmsman.   

  Jan 98 and I was asked would I like to take part in a R.Y.A (Royal Yacht Association) Advanced dinghy racing techniques at West Kirby. It was cold and windy but provided some excellent sailing. We raced each week and points were accumulated because there would eventually be an overall winner. I have always enjoyed sailing but never thought about as a competition but more as a means of travel. What could make more sense on a watery planet? By the last day of this course and we were in contention for first position. Only one other boat was anywhere near us on points. The day of the final three races it was a large spring tide. By the end of the first race the water had reached the top of the marine lake wall. The temptation to sail over the wall and out into the estuary was becoming irresistible.

In the end I succumbed to the temptation and sailed out of the lake. The safety boat chased after us. When we came back into the lake we were late for the start of the crucial race and they had started without us. It cost us the race and the first place overall. It did not seem that important to win the race. The mischief of sailing over the wall still gives me pleasure when I think about it now. This is the point where I stopped being a racer and became a cruiser. I have never raced since.

  To the victor the spoils, back to the sailing club for drinks. It was customary at these functions to expect copious amounts of banter and a great deal of piss taking. During the course of the afternoon one of the club members who had not been involved in the competition came into the club. He wasted no time in telling me that the prospect 900 outside the clubhouse was now for sale.



  In the beginning



    Sailing Prospero

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  by Alan Gillam

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