Number 200 / July 2008

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Open Letter to SteveR (PaulWi)

Dear Steve

I'm glad you feel able to bring up the question of the OCSG members' skill level as it is an issue I too have clear views on. Perhaps if the debate gets opened up some of the members like myself will feel more able to make a fuller contribution to the various meets attended.

I am happy to see the OCSG skill levels to which I can bench mark my own attainment. I am not a complete novice to sailing and watersports but I am a new 'member' and as such other members do not know what sailing ability I possess. So perhaps that is the first hurdle I face? Being able to demonstrate what I can do, and then 'being' allowed to sail my boat if I can find a 'buddy group'? Self assessment does not prove I can do the various elements of each level.

I attended the Rutland meet (April 08) full of enthusiasm for the new season and hopeful of getting to 'show off' what I could do and also to learn what my boat could do under differing conditions. You were the first person I spoke to after arriving and your first words to me popped my bubble immediately. You said, 'the wind is too strong, I doubt many people will even bother to get on the water today'. Well I had set aside a weekend, packed, travelled, arrived before 10am, and felt like turning around straight away! How can I gain the skills you talk of if I do not put myself in the conditions needed to develop? Were there any more experienced members willing to cast an eye over me? Was the trip to the cafe all we could actually organise?

As I listened at the briefing I began to feel you were right and I would not be encouraged to unload my boat. Even sailing solo near the campsite now appears to be something that is not encouraged (see last Gossip issued). I did however manage to take home some wet clothes as I gained a berth acting as ballast. Unfortunately, the only skill I needed was leaning to the left or right, which I could already do. I was so fed up I went home on Saturday afternoon and spent Sunday paddling along the Grand Union Canal.

You seem very concerned about capsize skills. I agree they are an important element of everyone's personal skill base but when was the last session organised? I am planned to attend the Chasewater meet and perhaps some issues will be addressed then as it is a specific 'training' meet.

Before I go on too long I would like to add that I am a teacher, qualified mountain leader, sports coach etc. and spend my working life helping others to acquire the skills I already possess. If any member out there can help me I will gladly listen, watch, copy and more importantly try my best to learn more than I already know.

So in closing Steve, thank you for being controversial and opening this debate and I hope we do all prove you wrong next time we are on the water.

PaulWi OC138

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