WHEN Lord Riverdale opened Ulley Sailing Club in 1972, he noted the facilities were so good “one day some youngster who learned to sail here may be in the Olympic team”.
He was only half right, as it turned out.
For some youngster who learned to sail here has not just been a member of the Great Britain Olympic team, he has been a gold medal winner.
Today, as the club prepares to spend the summer celebrating its landmark 40th anniversary, Paul Goodison – for it was this 34-year-old Brinsworth lad who won that gong in 2008 – is very much the poster boy.
But the group, based on Ulley Reservoir, off Pleasley Road, is about far more than just one man.
For over the last four decades it has introduced hundreds of land-locked South Yorkshire folk to the joys of sailing, raised thousands of pounds for good causes and had plenty of competition success.
“It’s a magical thing to be a part of,” says David Holt, the club’s commodore – or ‘boss’ for those who don’t speak nautical. “Sailing may have an elitist image but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“We welcome anyone who comes along. It’s actually cheaper for family membership for a year here than it would be for a single day at a theme park.”
Certainly, all sorts go along.
From the retired chap in his 70s who goes out in a 14-foot enterprise to the six and seven-year-olds who sail alone on boats just six feet long, it’s an eclectic membership, all right. They come for the training nights, the Sunday internal race days and the trips to other galas such as the world famous Southport 24 Hour Race.
“There’s no better feeling than skimming across the water, powered by nothing but the wind,” says David, who himself joined in 2004. “It’s magical.
“And for children, it teaches so many life skills – team work, discipline, self-reliance.
“Paul was brought down by his parents, Roy and Cynthia, when he was just four.”
Not that he’s been the only success.
One former member, Duncan Trustwell, is now the Royal Yachting Association youth racing manager while another, Jamie Mawson, is the RS600 National Champion.
As success rates go, it’s not bad for a group which was formed because Rotherham Council was pressured by a nationwide initiative to promote water-sports.
The authority paid £35,000 to build a clubhouse at the reservoir and then handed the keys to a specially-formed sailing committee in January 1972.
Not that it’s been all, um, plain sailing.
Ironically, the club almost folded the day when too much water arrived – the 2007 flood.
“You’d think a flood wouldn’t impact on sailers,” says David, a 57-year-old sales manager of Stafford Crescent, Rotherham. “But the deluge caused the reservoir walls to be in danger of collapsing.”
Water had to be pumped out meaning there was nothing to sail on for some three years.
“We had to arrange for members to use other lakes and kept a programme of social events at the club,” explains David.
It’s a good job they did too.
For after reopening in 2010 there has been a huge surge in interest – inspired, no doubt, by the London Olympics.
“Now,” says David. “we’re looking forward to a great anniversary summer.”
Ulley Sailing Club has regular opening days coming for people wanting to give sailing a try. Visit www.ulleysailingclub.org.uk for details.