On Wykeham Lake at the weekend trying our best to keep our boats upright and often failing, a friend and I learned again that the best things in life do not always come easily. Our knees were black & blue from kneeling on the hard hull of the little Topaz dinghies, our heads ached from being hit repeatedly by the boom as it gibed across the boat at full pelt, we were soaking wet after capsizing umpteen times, our forty-something out of condition bodies were screaming 'what's going on' as muscles we didn't know we had were put under strain, and our brains were utterly confused with all the new information we were being asked to process. I can't speak for my friend but I'm pretty sure that, at times during the weekend, he was thinking the same thing as me; 'Why did I ever agree to do this?'.
Then there were those times when the boat seemed to decide that it was going to do what it was made for, despite being helmed by a complete idiot. As the rudder turned it across the wind and the sails tightened, it would suddenly heel over and immediately pick-up speed as the centre board counteracted the sideways thrust. To keep it balanced you had to scrambled up on to the side and lean out whilst keeping the sail and the rudder in the right positions. And then it was a question of hanging on while you were carried along, the wind blowing passed you and the water making a wonderful sound as the bow sliced through it. There was a taughtness between the boat and the wind which I was controlling and it felt as though I was part of it.
We practiced gibing, tacking, reaching, running and learned things we never knew about aerodynamics and how a sail works like an airplane wing on it's side. Hours passed in what seemed like minutes and suddenly it was time to return to the beach (reluctantly). It was only when we had unrigged the boats and got changed that I (for one) began to realise what we had done. It was an achievement, not because it was easy but because it was hard. I don't think I'll ever make a competent sailor, but trying will be very worthwhile.