This month has once again seen the arrival at Bolton Sailing Club of large numbers of excited children from special schools and children with special needs form a range of schools in Lancashire to have a go at sailing.
The first week saw around 80 children from Pendle Community High School for their annual sailing week. The weather was not kind for the first three days with rain and some blustery wind but everyone seemed to have a fantastic time. The children tried out the access boats and enjoyed fast rides in the powerboats and journeys of exploration in the long liner. The Wayfarer also put in an appearance providing big boat pleasure cruises.  It was very rewarding to watch the children’s confidence grow and see the improvement in their ability to sail. We did manage to prove that our floating radios do float – just not very far out of the water.

On Tuesday not only did we host the school but we were visited by the RYA inspector! He appeared very happy with all our arrangements and renewed our centre status with flying colours.

Thursday saw the sun out and the smiles even wider. Unfortunately this didn’t last and the dreadful forecast of torrential rain and thunderstorms on Friday caused the school to cancel that day. Just to add to the gloom we found we had had nocturnal visitors who had relieved the club of the fuel trailer and a winch.

On Wednesday 11th July nine schools from around Lancashire gathered for the Lancashire Special Schools Sailing Regatta. This is the biggest turnout yet for this event. The sun was out but the weather was not kind with a steady force 4-5 wind for all of the day. However this did not deter our intrepid sailors who went out for a quick practice before starting the first race.

Moor Hey got off to an excellent start and were way ahead on the first leg. However as they reached the windward mark it became apparent that the wind conditions had worsened and most of our sailors were struggling to cope. It was decided to abandon the race and return to shore for lunch. Despite the wind all the sailors came in with big smiles and even bigger appetites for the wonderful spread provided by the ladies of Bolton Galley (thank you very much it was delicious).

After polishing off the buffet our sailors went back out for the second race which would decide the results. The wind was kinder and most managed to negotiate the course successfully. The final result was 1st Ridgewood Community High School (Burnley), 2nd Astley Park (Chorley), and 3rd Broadfield GLD School (Oswaldtwistle). Well done to all the other schools who took part – Tor View School (Haslingden), Moor Hey School (Lostock Hall), Pendle Community High School (Nelson), Sir Tom Finney Community High School (Preston), Green Lane Special School (Warrington) and Great Arley (Blackpool). Many thanks to Pendle School Sports Partnership for their support for this event.

Following on the Friday we had the first of our primary days. This was a chance for the younger children to have a go. Once again the weather was not kind but the smiles said it all. The children all had a go in the access boats and proved that “kids really do learn faster!” Geoff’s tour in the long liner acquired some new sights – not only do they go to New York via Waterhead but now go past Blackpool Pier and along the Great Wall of China.
Monday saw the arrival of children from Astley Park School  from Chorleyl. After an introduction to the boats with our volunteers the children showed us how it was done by going out in pairs. At first they seemed to have a magnetic attraction to Turton mark but after a while were sailing competently from Turton to Jetty and back again. The enthusiastic wishes to come back again put a big smile on everyone’s face.

Tuesday was our final day with the primary children. The weather was not co-operating once again – we arrived to a cloud covered lake. Luckily the cloud lifted and between the showers we actually saw the sun. We had five access boats out, the long liner and power boat along with big boat cruises in the GP14. Once again the smiles came thick and fast and the screams of delight could be heard right across the water. The afternoon session included a water fight which just goes to prove that some people cannot be trusted with bailers. Excitement was also provided by one of our members managing to run aground and another running out of fuel, they will remain nameless… Further exploration in the long liner added the Suez Canal to Geoff’s world tour.

When we waved goodbye to our final visitors it was time to put everything away and count up. 132 children, numerous members of staff, 1 delicious regatta lunch, 9 access boats, 1 wayfarer, 1 GP14, 2 power boats, 1 long liner, several water fights,  20 volunteers and more smiles than could be counted!

The nine days have seen children of mixed ages and abilities take advantage of the opportunity provided to have a try at sailing. We have had wheel chair users, children with other mobility issues and all types of learning difficulties but everyone has had a fantastic time. The sense of achievement these children get from their experience is beyond measure and their enthusiasm is infectious.  However this could not have been possible without the help of a number of organisations and people. The access boats were kindly loaned by Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club, Bolton Sailing Club, Gill Head Outdoor Centre, Blackwell Sailability and the Access Association; lunch on regatta day provided by the ladies of Bolton Galley; support from the members of staff who accompanied the children and found themselves on the water; and last, but no means least, the volunteers from Bolton who worked so hard to make this possible under the leadership of Warren Price namely – Geoff Benson, Dennis & Kath Shevelan, Jerry Critchley, Peter Shore, Ian Walker, Don Appleton, Jane Griffiths, Rob Paul, Keith Roberts Lynne Hagen, Sue Sharman and from the younger end of the club Rebecca Paul, Ben Sharman, George Mitson, Alex Collins, James Shevelan-Hobbs, Harriet Griffiths and our special visitor from Spain Itziar Gorordo.

Bolton’s involvement in Sailability has once again proved a great success. We have provided the opportunity for all levels of ability to sail. Many of our members are unable to help at these events due to work commitments but for those of us who can it has been very rewarding, lots of fun and a great privilege to be able to give something to these children that they have not had the chance to try before.