All hands on deck to press-gang sailors

editorial image

TWENTY years ago this week a Hartlepool yacht club tried a different tack to stem what members saw as a tide of ignorance about the sort of people who go sailing. ANDREW LEVETT looks back at the day the mariners unfurled their message in the Mail.

“YACHT clubs immediately conjure up a picture of upper-class twits dressing up in boaters and blazers or Hurray henrys guffawing and knocking back endless glasses of champagne.”

That was how Mail writer Bernice Saltzer began her profile of Hartlepool Yacht Club, before stressing that the popular image didn’t hold water.

Club members, wrote Bernice, included electricians, plumbers, students and the unemployed.

Paul Gretton of the club visibly shuddered in dismay at the image of a club for “rich yachties”.

“You can be talking about a lot of money if you’re thinking about buying a boat,” he admitted.

“But you can have an interest in sailing and just come down and get involved and it costs nothing at all.”

Paul said the club was keen to attract new members and claimed all anyone needed was an interest in sailing.

“We’ve got people who come here from as far away as York and Whitby, yet people in Hartlepool don’t seem to want to get involved.”

But Paul told Bernice he could understand the initial reticence becasue he felt it himself when starting sailing around 20 years earlier.

As an electrician-turned-teacher he accepted an invitation from a friend and was hooked.

“It was being in the fresh air and that sense of freedom and relaxation it gives you that won me over,” he said.

Paul had raced as far afield as Norway in the club’s competitions but stressed you could be as serious or relaxed as you wanted.

“It really is a wonderful way to spend your time,” he said.

“People shouldn’t be put off because they think they know nothing about sailing or haven’t got a boat.

“If they are interested they should just come down to the clubhouse.

“You’re more likely to find people going out in borrowed oilskins and wellies with holes in them than all the expensive gear!”

Did the Hartlepool Mail’s article in 1994 inspire you to sample life on the ocean waves?

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.