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Age nothing but a number as 86-year-old Jean shows 'This Girl Can' Learn to Sail

by Karenza Morton 30 Sep 2017 16:11 BST 30 September 2017

An 86-year-old Oswestry woman says she has enjoyed a "new world of experiences" after learning to sail this year at Shropshire Sailing Club.

Jean Hughes was invited by friends to Shropshire SC's free Push The Boat Out open day in May, and loved her sailing tasters so much she signed up for a two-day RYA Start Sailing course. She has since spent many Saturdays learning the ropes and improving her skills at the club during the summer.

Jean's only previous sailing experience came when her family bought a small dinghy, which they put on the roof of the car and took to Bala Lake to try it out. However, that attempt didn't go quite to plan and they had to row the boat back to shore!

She admits her experience this year has been a little more successful.

Jean said: "Learning to sail was on my 'bucket list'. I have always enjoyed new challenges and thought sailing would open up a new world of experiences. It is certainly living up to my expectations and I am really enjoying getting out on the water, especially being able to 'lean out' when going fast!

"I have gone to the club on Saturdays when possible and found the people there very friendly. I'm so thankful God has given me good health so that I have been able to try this with help and encouragement from everyone at the sailing club."

John Ridgers, RYA Training Principal at Shropshire SC, taught Jean on her Start Sailing course. He believes it is the first time someone new to the sport has started sailing at the club in their eighties.

John continued: "Jean was a delight to teach; her enthusiasm and the speed she picked up new skills were outstanding. We have people of all ages starting to sail at the club, as sailing is something which appeals to many people because of the wide variety of different opportunities it offers at all stages of a person's life. It has been fantastic to see Jean approach this new challenge with such gusto and to have been part of her achieving this ambition."

Shropshire SC is a recognised RYA Training Centre, meaning it conforms to the highest standards of quality and safety. To help even more local people of all ages get into the sport, the club is now providing the chance to learn to sail in bigger, more stable boats by offering a new RYA Keelboat course on 21-22 October.

Gareth Brookes, RYA Regional Development Officer for the Midlands, added: "Jean is proof that sailing has no barriers. Sailing can be as relaxing or as physical as you want, and being outdoors on the water, and the achievement of mastering the elements to control the boat, are proven in promoting positive mental wellbeing."

It's not too late to find out what Shropshire SC could do for you this year. For more information, including on the club's new RYA Keelboat course, visit

RYA Push The Boat Out returns in 2018 and, for the first time, is extended for the whole of May. Hundreds of 'have a go' at sailing and windsurfing events will take place across the country so keep an eye on for details.

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