Looking for a new activity that gets you away from the desk and into the elements, but isn’t too demanding on the body and has a healthy social element? Well step aboard and discover sailing. Located in a prime position at the Tobruk Pool end of The Strand, Townsville Sailing Club is attracting seafarers of all ages and abilities with its range of Learn to Sail Courses. We caught up with 14-year-old Special Olympics World Games contender Chelseann Osborne and experienced instructor John Stannard, who both deliver the training, to find out more about this all-inclusive sport.
“Sailing doesn’t need to be technical unless you want it to be and you don’t have to be super fit — just come down and do it” – Chelseann Osborne
How long have you both been sailing and how did you discover it?
Chelseann: Six years. I went to watch my cousins competing in Airlie and asked my Mum and Dad if I could get involved. I was eight when I had my first go in Townsville and did my first national regatta at 10 after competing at local events. My brother did it with me, who was five… well, I needed a crew (laughs)!
John: A little under half a century! When I was on school holidays some friends asked me to come for a sail with them. We walked for miles to get to the sailing club [in Brisbane] and waited nearly all day for it to open, but I can remember that first sail like it was yesterday. There was a light breeze and the boat picked up its skirts and just went — I was hooked.
What do you love about sailing?
Chelseann: The friends I’ve made — you get to meet interesting people of all ages. Every Sunday in the sailing season (from March to November in Townsville) we have a club day where everyone comes down and has a sail. You don’t need your own boat as you can hire one from the club. I also enjoy being an assistant instructor — I help out with the Tackers, which are the primary school kids, and also the adults.
John: The fantastic aspect of sailing is the age range. It’s a real combination of intellectual and physical and isn’t a sport that requires you to start young. Australia’s first sailing Olympic Gold Medallist Bill Northam started in his forties and won the medal in his fifties.
What’s your next sailing goal?
Chelseann: The next Special Olympics is in two years [National Summer Games is every four years] when I’m in Year 12, so my aim is to do that and better my result from the last nationals [Chelseann got second place] so I can represent Australia at the Special Olympics World Games in 2019. There are several divisions, but you are competing against people of all ages. Most have an intellectual disability, and the boats are modified so that you can’t tip over. Until then, I’m just focusing on trying to improve on the new boat I got in January — it’s a Laser and its previous owner was recently inducted into Queensland Academy of Sport.
John: It’s very inspiring for the club to see Chelseann involved in these national events, especially for the younger sailors, but it makes us all realise that we can’t sit back on our laurels! I don’t have any competitive goals, but I just want to introduce sailing to as many people as possible and see more women involved in the sport.
What’s the biggest lesson that sailing has taught you?
Chelseann: No matter how good you are there is always someone better, so you need to keep pushing. That can be through training harder, or asking questions of more experienced people.
John: Sailing is a personal challenge that teaches you about yourself and every time you head out it’s different. Sailing gives you that something you’re looking for, even if you don’t realise it until the day!
John: Come down and have a go and see if sailing’s for you. It doesn’t have to be an expensive sport as you can hire the boats — even if you’re racing — and you can crew on other boats. The club is family-friendly, inclusive and welcoming of new members.
Chelseann: Sailing doesn’t need to be technical unless you want it to be and you don’t have to be super fit — just come down and do it. It’s a great way to meet people. On the first day of the course you don’t know anyone, then by the end of it everyone is laughing and getting along — no matter the age difference.
Townsville Sailing Club has a Tackers course for primary school children. Teenagers and adults can get involved through the Learn to Sail Course, or there’s a specific session called Women on the Water where ladies can learn the ropes every Thursday night. The club also runs Transition to Racing courses for those who want to take their sailing up a notch.
Courses are held regularly at Townsville Sailing Club — boats are supplied and you automatically become a club member. Find out the course dates in the Workshops and Courses section of our Event Calendar. Also see the Townsville Sailing Club Facebook page.