NEWS 12th Mar 2012

Youngsters Weekend Sailing Trip - Capturing Shingles Bank!

Teenage Weekends 2011
Teenage Weekends 2011

On the last Friday in September 2011 a group of youngsters living with cancer met together for the first time at Sarisbury Green near Portsmouth. They were all slightly apprehensive but very excited as they were about to set off on a whole weekend's sailing adventure. Stepping aboard the beautiful Merrilyn they were introduced to the professional crew, then issued with a bunk and a crew shirt. Skipper Gareth gave the youngsters and their parents a short talk about the plans for the weekend, before hustling the parents off the boat so that adventure could begin.

Teenage Weekends 2011

Gareth and his afterguard of qualified sailors rapidly got the crew of youngsters into good shape and they were quickly underway, heading off to spend the night anchored up in Osborne Bay on the Isle of Wight. Because of the tidal state they were quite close to the deep water channel which gave them a ringside seat for a couple of particularly large container vessels heading up to Southampton.

Teenage Weekends 2011

Saturday morning dawned without too much wind, but this was a good excuse to get out the boat's biggest sail on the way down the Western Solent - Merrilyn's cruising chute. Quite a daunting prospect for the young crew - not so much on the way up, because they don't realise how big it is; but getting it down again, with all that sail material, can seem quite a challenge! They weren't much past Yarmouth before the wind shifted out of that sail's usable range, and so began the challenge...

Teenage Weekends 2011
Teenage Weekends 2011

Cruising chute safely stowed, Merrilyn gently sailed down past Yarmouth and out of the Hurst Narrows to go and take a look at the Needles. It was on the way down the Needles Channel that the experienced sailors noticed something none of them had ever seen before - the Shingles bank was visible. Gareth commented, "I've heard of this being the case very infrequently but usually it's not visible even at the very lowest tides. Evidently storm weather this year has heaped it up in one spot. Given that it might disappear in the next storm, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so we sent out an expedition to claim the bank for the Sail 4 Cancer!"

Teenage Weekends 2011
Given the speed of the tidal flow it was a case of very careful timing: anchoring Merrilyn as close in as they could safely get, hoisting the rowing dinghy in and ferrying the expedition ashore as close to slack water as they could. They had around twenty minutes - so what better way to spend that time than to have a quick game of cricket! Unfortunately as you'll see from one of the photos they lost the ball, which meant there was time for a quick race from one end of the exposed bank to the other before they had to jump back into the dinghy and hurry back to Merrilyn.

Teenage Weekends 2011
Teenage Weekends 2011

The wind picked up nicely in the afternoon and the youngsters soon had Merrylin roaring back up the Solent to Osborne Bay and a swimming break - with the usual leaping off the bow and so on - everything expected from one of these trips! From there, they hopped over to Portsmouth, coming alongside in Gosport Marina rather than Gunwharf due to crowding over there. The lucky advantage of this was that the keenest sailors onboard had the chance to walk round the pontoons to take a look at Alex Thompson's brand-new Open60 racing yacht, "Hugo Boss", the archetypical lean, mean, stealth black racing machine. Before bed, what better way to finish off their exciting day than the winching of keen crewmembers up the mast! Always a highlight of any of these trips!


Teenage Weekends 2011
Sunday was again lacking somewhat in wind too, but the crew had enough breeze to get themselves over to Cowes for a lunchtime stop, and a trip to the ice cream parlour - renowned for its portion sizes and also for its hot chocolate sauce.

Skipper Gareth summed up the weekend: "The crew were particularly keen all weekend, and got involved in everything from the sailing and helming to the inevitable potato peeling, baking and death by chocolate biscuit cake eating. The level of keenness was such that we even covered some of the RYA Competent Crew syllabus for a couple of them, and I'm sure they'll be back with Sail 4 Cancer if asked..."


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