A well preserved timber shed salvaged from an abandoned WW2 camp has stood for almost 60 years as a club house beside a very small lake. It is surrounded by dinghies few of which would cost more than a few hundred pounds on E bay. With crumbling surfaces, concrete roadways lead to manicured lawns and a pair of pontoon jetties, one faded polypropylene the other with a more agricultural looking steel frame floating on large plastic drums. 10 marker buoys grace the lake and a small well preserved hut with an oversized scaffolding flag pole surrounded by a galvanised steel hand rail sit on the bank with a clear view of the lake.
Now look beyond the initial impressions. Sit on the bench overlooking the lake and watch for a while. The manicured lawns and well preserved woodwork are a clue that there is more going on than may at first meet the eye.
Throughout the season there is rarely an afternoon or evening when there isn’t some activity on the 6-acre lake. On a Tuesday afternoon small groups of the recently retired go out for an informal race, joined in the evening by other social sailors. Wednesday afternoons see a fleet of model boats plying the Flash to be replaced by a keenly fought evening race. Thursday evenings, the local junior school introduces its top year to the joys of the water on a fleet of Optimist dinghies. On Friday evenings up to 30 junior sailors do much the same under the tuition of the club’s dinghy instructors. The Optimist fleet joined by the colourful sails of RS Fevas and Toppers. Saturdays are race days. Sundays are for social sailing with model boats and dinghies vying for space. Throughout the year there are training courses with boats veering in all directions and shouts of joy. The RYA Affiliated Training Centre Flag underneath the Red Dragon of Wales snapping in the breeze.
The RYA Sailability sticker in corner of a window, the newer concrete ramps to the clubhouse doors and non-slip gratings to the pontoons are evidence of the minor changes needed to bring the older facilities up to current disabled access standards. Simply DIY routine repair and maintenance with an eye to accessibility.
The fleets are 1950s and 60s plywood dinghies and their GRP offspring with a scattering of more recent plastic single handers. They may not be at the forefront of yachting evolution, but for a few pounds a year provide their owners with immense pleasure with like-minded friends.
For 60 years now Gresford Sailing Club has served its 100 or so members, introducing hundreds of youngsters to the water. Some have gone onto National and International success or sailed single handed cross the bigger pond that is the Atlantic. Others have kept happy memories of care fee days. The racing still attracts septuagenarian and octogenarian participants, sons and daughters of founder members.
This is nobody’s image of elite and inaccessible yachting. This is Gresford Sailing Club.