Why River Sailing ... and river sailing at Yorkshire Ouse SC in particular?

Once you have decided you want to get afloat, and decided to spare yourself the hassle of fuel, oil, smell, noise and more of motors (the “infernal” combustion engine!), opting for the natural power of the wind, then where to go sailing?

There are two significant different types of small boat sailing; on still water (a pond, lake or reservoir), and on moving water (a river or the sea) where current and tides add to the enjoyment and pleasure. If you fancy just racing around buoys and little more, then a lake or reservoir is fine. However if you want to enjoy a sense of sailing from somewhere, heading to somewhere else, as well as the fun of racing, then a river or the sea adds another dimension. If you’re a long way from the sea, then classic river sailing is for you.

Dismissed by some as sailing on a thin confined strip of water, river sailing allows a newcomer to practise and develop skills much sooner, requiring more frequent boat handling and manoeuvring. Once the basics are mastered then skills can be refined as the twists and turns of the river mean the wind changes in direction relative to the course sailed. In addition natural wind shifts can be used to advantage to make better progress. As expertise develops further look for the natural eddies in the current particularly when sailing upstream. Watching for leaves floating near the surface going the “wrong” way can give away an area of water where a back eddy is flowing against the main stream. Get your boat into that area and in light wind particularly, when progress may have been tricky, you suddenly find yourself with the stream and making dramatic progress!

River banks are often tree lined or have buildings nearby. These cause their own wind shifts and often unexpected changes in direction. While sometimes frustrating, mastering them is extremely rewarding. When racing, this can mean the difference between a good win or a distant last, but even the crew who come last are learning all the time and nothing focusses the mind more than seeing a similar boat, better sailed, stretching her lead over others. At YOSC the novice can always rely on an experienced member to give words of advice and encouragement.

At popular times, rivers can be quite busy with other traffic. While this can be frustrating, other craft are obliged to give way to those under sail (except in certain circumstances where large commercial vessels may be “constrained by draft” or have local rights of way, usually ferry services). Courtesy to others however means that small boat sailors should usually avoid forcing other traffic into avoiding action unnecessarily. The variety of river traffic in itself adds interest; you may find a real steam launch puffing its way towards you or even a car “driving” up the river (some will remember the “Amphicar” of the 1960s!); both are seen of the River Ouse around York.

Then there’s the wildlife and the natural vistas. Every bend produces a different view and rivers teem with wildlife. Watch out for the flash of blue as a kingfisher darts past. Add to the wildlife, the history. After the Thames, the Ouse probably boast more history on its banks than any other river. To sail from Naburn upriver, the Archbishops Palace is a unique location, standing right on the riverside, towering above the surface. Reaching York and you’re in the heart of the city with history all around you.

Finally there’s one universally accepted fact: a sailor who sails well on a river, sails well anywhere. Yorkshire Ouse Sailing Club has a history of its members’ competitive success at Open, National and Championship level and others who’ve completed long ocean passages, all that far exceeds expectations based on the Club’s size alone. There’s one simple explanation; YOSC members are river sailors!