How discovering sailing gave Lydia the escape she was looking for
On Wednesday 13 February I arrived home to a letter from the RYA. I wondered if my membership was up for renewal, however, once I opened the envelope it revealed a different story. It read: “Congratulations, I am writing to let you know you have been selected as the RYA Midlands Regional Youth Champion 2019!”
Although I knew I’d been nominated, I had no idea I had the chance to win such a prestigious award. With my reply sorted I was looking forward to the RYA Dinghy Show, but the story about the presentation is for another day. This blog focuses on the beginning of my sailing adventure and will hopefully inspire some of you to get on the water or more often.
So let’s take things back to the start.
Behind my house in Stoke there was a lake called Stanley Pool. I often enjoyed walks around it in the summer but unbelievably we lived in that house for over a whole year before I discovered sailing! One day, things changed. Myself and a friend from school were walking through the boat part, as usual, and met a North Staffs SC member called Stewart, who offered us a taster session.
When it came to that session, I really enjoyed the experience. I’ve always been a very determined person, and learning a new skill to enjoy would be really helpful for me to channel that determination into. Learning how the wind works was also really interesting. Instantly I knew it was definitely something I wanted to get better at.
I was itching to sail again so soon began going to the club every weekend, eager to improve my skills and start racing. By May I had passed my RYA Level 1 and 2 and was sailing by myself. The Commodore’s son Dan gifted me his old Laser. Built in 1974 it was good enough for a beginner and having a boat of my own make me fall in love with the sailing even more, fuelling the need to improve and race better.
If you have a new sailor at your club and have a boat spare, I’d definitely recommend loaning them it until they get their own, or if you can afford, give it to them. That small gesture of kindness and belief can spur somebody on so much. I owe that little red boat so much, it allowed me to go on the water and gain experience. All those days capsizing mean now I can stay on the boat rather well.
That summer was my last at high school, meaning the dreaded GCSEs.
I used to enjoy school; being reasonably bright I had been coasting through without applying myself too much. However, I started struggling with Maths after I lost my amazing Maths teacher. This really came as a shock to me as I had never had to work at something academically before. Sailing helped me cope with the pressure as I had something else to focus on. I used sailing as a distraction.
I started college in September 2017 and sailed more and more, before in November I moved clubs to Blithfield. Being at a club with a bigger Laser fleet was fundamental to my sailing improvement.
I was now taking the sport very seriously and in May last year my grandparents decided to help me purchase a newer boat of my own. This is when my part-time job in a pub became more important than ever. I make my own money (granted not a lot!) and it allows me to fund running and upgrading my boat, getting better kit and attending some events. It was great for me to want to work to fund something I love.
Sailing on a whole has helped me learn a balance to work, school and, of course, sailing. I try to go at least three times a week, as time on the water is crucial to improvement and enjoyment. I complete my college work in the week, and sail whenever I can as getting wound up in the stress of exams often make things worse, so by staying detached and sailing I manage to stay happy and healthy, which is extremely important.
I would recommend sailing to anybody; it’s an activity to unwind, and teaches you amazing social skills, which will become very handy in later life. Sailing teaches responsibility and allows you to grow as a person, making you extremely interesting when applying for jobs or universities.
The skills sailing has taught me have helped me ever so much in my normal life and I cannot thank the sport and all the people and friends who have helped me at all my sailing clubs enough. The knowledge I have gained from simply listening has been amazing. Thank you!
*reproduced from Lydia’s ‘Lydia Sailing’ website, where you can read the full, unedited blog.