“Sailing? What, on the Brayford?”
This is almost always the immediate reaction when I tell people I go sailing in Lincoln.
The answer in fact, is no.
As part of the Sailing Society at the University of Lincoln, I sail at the North Hykeham Sailing Club on Apex Lake.
North Hykeham Sailing Club, a registered Royal Yachting Association (RYA) training centre, can be found on the edge of the 200 acres of water that is Apex Lake. The club boasts space for around 150 boats and has great facilities.
Alex Rabbitt, President of the University of Lincoln Sailing Society, told me: “People are always really surprised when I tell them that there’s a sailing club near Lincoln and they always immediately assume it’s on the Brayford. It’s too small!
“I think it’s because there’s very little [in terms of sailing facilities] in Lincoln. We don’t sail on the Brayford. We’re really lucky. The facilities at North Hykeham are great.”
Whether you are drenched and dripping from taking an unexpected dip in the unnaturally blue waters after capsizing, or wrapped up in the warm and happily spectating from dry land, there is plenty of space for everyone in the club house.
What there doesn’t seem to be plenty of, however, are places to actually go sailing in Lincoln. To the point where people don’t even realise there is a sailing club 20 minutes down the road in North Hykeham.
Alex has sailed on a variety of waters across the UK from Pennington Flash in the North West, right down to the Solent and the River Medina on the Isle of Wight.
“It’s not just sailing clubs that are rare here. I even looked for sailing shops and the only one I could find was at Burton Waters, but it was more canal cruising kind of gear rather than sailing kit.”
McClay Manktelow, 21, who learnt to sail at North Hykeham, said: “I was born and raised in Gosport, a port town near Portsmouth where there were four sailing clubs on one road. But here, I only know of the one club in the area. There are a few places I’d like to go sailing in Lincoln, but the facilities just aren’t available.”
But despite being the closest club to Lincoln, North Hykeham Sailing Club isn’t necessarily the easiest place to reach for members of the university’s sailing society.
Either you walk across a field that, whatever the weather, can only be described as a mud bath, or you use a key to unlock the gate and follow the long winding road past hidden fishermen, two mucky horses and the odd dog walker, leading you up to the sailing club.
Alex sighed as he said: “Even though it’s not far, sometimes it’s a bit of a pain getting there.”
Laughing, Alex compared the two methods of access to the sailing club: “It’s either a slip and slide challenge through the muddiest field in the world after catching a train, or we get lifts down to the longest road in the world that is guarded by two horses that won’t move for any car that comes their way!”
But despite the fact that the North Hykeham Sailing Club can sometimes be a hassle to get to, Alex reckons it’s brilliant for sailing compared to some places.
“The nice thing about sailing in Hykeham is that it’s really secluded so you don’t get any real disturbances. Back home in Manchester, where I used to sail in Salford, we got so much harassment from the locals.
“They would throw stuff at us from the side. It was great on stormy days because they wouldn’t be out, but on hot days when you want to be out on the water, you’d just get harassed by all the kids that were out.
“Even when I moved and started sailing on a lake called Pennington Flash, we still got harassed on hot days. But when you come to Lincoln, people just don’t do that, everyone’s much nicer.”
McClay grinned as he told me: “I’ve always been interested in learning and it’s an option for me to be in a boat and not feel seasick which is a nice change of pace!
“My favourite thing is largely the community. Everyone is a good laugh and fun to hang out with. Sailing with them always makes learning more enjoyable. If we didn’t have this little community, I think I’d have had trouble getting into it.”
We found that Girton Sailing Club is the closest after North Hykeham, a 25-minute drive from Lincoln city centre. All the other clubs were at least an hour away.
The 5 closest sailing clubs to Lincoln: