Get Inspired: Goz and Ross take on sailing

By Goz UgochukwuBBC North
Goz and Ross try sailing together for their series of activity challenges

When we picked sailing as our next challenge I was a bit terrified.

I love the water but, having never been in control of a sailing boat or dingy before, I was a bit nervous that I might capsize.

The instructors assured me that the dinghy wouldn't end up in the water. I wanted to believe them but I am not going to lie, part of me was worried of falling in the lake fully dressed.

I didn't appreciate what was involved in sailing and it became apparent in the induction that it's not just waiting for the wind to show up and take you off into the sunset.

Goz and Ross prepare for their challenge

Of all the physical challenges Ross and I have done over the past months this is the first sport that we really could do together and we had to work as a team to make it happen.

So, all we had to do was to follow a course of the lake in a shape of a triangle. Sounds easy right?

Ross took the rudder while I was in charge of controlling the sail. We got off to a slow start as there was no wind so we were stuck there for a while. Then, out of nowhere, we shot off heading towards banking. Having the wind behind us pushing us through the water and knowing you can control it, was an amazing feeling!

It was a bit sad coming to the end of our time on the water. I was getting used to reading the wind and Ross and I were working really well together. I could have spent all day out there.

Goz and Ross nearly capsize

I found with sailing that it's important not to be scared of the elements. You need some kind of coordination, a bit like mountain biking, but for me this was so much more fun.

Sailing wasn't as physical as I thought it would be - this might have to do with the fact that I wasn't on my own in the water so I wasn't doing all the work. For me it was more of a mental challenge.

In fact the hardest part was getting into the dinghy. Once that was achieved, the sense of freedom was amazing and it was easier to master then, say, tennis.

It's a perfect sport to try if you don't want to be on your own and you like the water.

Ross' View

The only thing I'd really seen of sailing before was footage of Ben Ainslie conquering five consecutive Olympic Games, so I had visions of frantically dashing from one side of a boat to another, ducking underneath a sail and hanging on for dear life. Fortunately, at beginner level, it's a more gentle activity and perfect for a pleasant afternoon.

What I liked was that once inside the boat, Goz and I were on a level playing field, despite her disability. It's different to the other sports we've tried in that we could really experience it together as a team, with her focussing on controlling the sail, while I took on the role of steering the boat.

Goz and Ross for Get Inspired

For the most part, this seemed to work well, although there were some scary moments where we blamed each another for potentially capsizing! I think it must be a lot harder when having to control both the sail and rudder at the same time and having to race against people, but maybe I'll try that another time.

When I first climbed into the boat I thought I'd just be able to sit back to enjoy the experience; I hadn't really considered that the whole point of sailing is harnessing the wind to control how you move across the water.

There were times when we couldn't understand why we weren't really moving, but when we figured out that you have to zigzag across the wind rather than trying to sail directly into it, we progressed much better.

At a professional and Olympic level, I can see that sailing is a sport of tactics, intelligence in knowing how to fully take advantage of the wind, and strength in manoeuvring the sail.

Goz and Ross finish sailing

I really enjoyed sailing and this has now topped my list, even beating our tennis challenge. What I really liked about it is the reliance on one of earth's natural elements. It's almost as if the sportsman in the boat has to play second fiddle to the environment.

It's great that you're in the fresh air on the open water, and in a way I'm annoyed at myself for not having tried this earlier - I'm worried that I've missed the boat (excuse the pun).

However, I'm eager for another crack at sailing and I'd love to up the ante a little. I want to feel the full force of the wind, brave the elements and hit the waves. Who knows, maybe the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 could be calling?

If you are interested in getting into sailing, take a look at the Get Inspired sailing activity guide for more information.

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