Frequently Asked Questions
Who are your members?
It’s totally a cliché, and probably true of just about every amateur community sports club, but we’re an eclectic bunch! Amongst our members we have at least one plumber, photographer, microbiologist, retired firefighter, solicitor, cabin steward, architect, graphic designer, postie, student, globe-trotting jazz musician, builder, retired nurse, physicist, carpenter, public artist, recruiter, mad inventor, former roadie for the Sex Pistols, and many more folk from all walks of life.
However we all share the desire to launch ourselves off Brighton Beach in our craft of plastic, metal and sail. That shared passion bonds us and really is the heart of our club. If you want to learn to sail or are returning to sailing – and are happy to muck in to help other sailors get on the water, plus help to keep the club running smoothly – then you will certainly fit in!
The club is “run by its members for its members”. What does this mean for me?
Like most members’ clubs, we rely entirely on the efforts of our members to keep the club running. Nothing would happen without our members volunteering their time. Each year, we ask members of BSC to perform one or two sailing duties, and also to helm the club bar once or twice on a Wednesday evening – our regular social evening throughout the year.
Hopefully, in time, you’ll choose to participate more and more in order to help keep the club running. Members of the Committee meet once a month throughout the year to plan and manage all of the tasks that are required. Jim, Paul and Kev have invested plenty of time into improving and maintaining our premises. As has Nick, who also organises and corrals members to maintenance days each spring to ensure things don’t fall apart around us during the sailing season. Andy secured funding for our Safety Pavilion, and Barry designed it, which is why we now have a very comfortable spot from which our Officer of the Day and Timekeeper can control racing. James and Rolf organise our Learn to Sail scheme. Nigel organises the racing. Ali manages the money. Ben ensures the bar doesn’t run dry. And the list goes on.
We are only what we are today through the combined efforts of our members. We hope that you’ll join, enjoy the results of their past efforts, and soon be contributing yourself so that we can continue to build the club and all enjoy sailing off Brighton Beach together.
Do you run any training courses?
We do run one annual group course intended for people who are completely new to dinghy sailing. The course itself consists of RYA 'Dinghy Level 1' over a weekend at a nearby training centre, and then a series of coaching sessions off our sretch of beach on Saturday afternoons. Unfortunately, places for 2022 are already fully booked but we are planning to run the course again next year.
I’ve been meaning to learn to sail for years, but never have. Is it too late?
Almost certainly not! Our resident mad inventor, Dave, joined and took up sailing at the age of fifty and went on to become our Sailing Secretary. And, not to be outdone, Algie – our punk roadie – first sailed at sixty and can now be seen launching his D-Zero off Brighton Beach! That being said, our stretch of beach is not always the easiest place to sail, so you should always make a realistic assessment of your abilities before taking to the water.
Do you accept complete beginners?
We would absolutely love to be able to accept all-comers who wish to join us, regardless of their level of sailing experience, but unfortunately at present we just do not have the resources or personpower to be able to do so. We now only accept complete beginners via our annual ‘Learn to Sail’ course.
Until quite recently, we did allow complete newbies to dinghy sailing to join, particularly those with experience in sports such as yachting, windsurfing and kitesurfing. Many started by crewing before progressing to helming. However in recent years we’ve grown significantly and much of our current membership is still relatively new to sailing, and our sailing area is not always the easiest place to sail even for experienced helms.
As a result, our more experienced members are having to spend a lot of time helping newer members – which they’re happy to do – but we often simply don’t have sufficient numbers of our oldsters knocking about to be able to help all the newbies that wish to join and sail. We feel it would be irresponsible for us to accept more inexperienced sailors than we can safely assist on the water. Therefore we have very reluctantly come to the decision that we can no longer accept everyone who applies to join as members.
If you do choose to apply, we’ll invite you down for a trial sail on one of the club-owned boats. That way, you’ll be able to see if the club lives up to your expectations and the club can assess whether we can safely accommodate a sailor at your level of experience.
Do you have a youth programme?
Unfortunately we do not have any form of youth programme, and are unlikely to in the future. We’re an amateur members’ club, and not an official RYA ‘Training Centre’, and we are located on a stretch of coast that is poorly suited to training minors. Brighton Beach is rather exposed, with no headlands to limit the “wind over wave” effect from the prevailing winds. As a result conditions can be lumpy, and launching and landing can be quite the adventure at times.
We do have a small number of younger members aged 16 to 17 who helm independently, but generally anyone younger than that sails with a parent or guardian.
It is a requirement of membership that the main applicant be eighteen years or older. If you wish to sail with us but are not yet eighteen, you may join as a ‘family member’ alongside a parent or guardian. In applying, your parent or guardian indicates that they are responsible for you. We also require that your parent or guardian be present whenever you are attending the club until you turn eighteen, both for safety reasons and because we have a bar in our clubhouse. Please do contact the Membership Secretary if you wish to discuss further.
Can I sail on a two-hander with an experienced helm?
That may well be possible, but it’s not something that the club itself arranges. Each helm is the person responsible for operating their boat in a safe and considerate manner, so it is entirely their choice as to who they sail with.
Some of our helms are very experienced and are happy to take out newbies even on very windy and lumpy days. Other helms with less time at the tiller may not yet feel comfortable taking out inexperienced crew, especially if the conditions are challenging.
So if you wish to crew on a two-hander – which almost all of the catamarans on the beach are – it is a matter of turning up by 10am on a Sunday morning and letting it be known that you’d like to crew. Hopefully one of the helms will need crew and be happy to take you out. If not, you may be able to take out one of the single-hander pool boats instead, depending on availability, your level of experience and the conditions on the day.
Once you become a member, you’ll be added to the club’s WhatsApp group and arranging crew spots should become easier. In time, you may find yourself crewing regularly for a particular helm and they may be happy for you to build experience by taking the tiller from time to time.
I’m an experienced sailor. Is sailing off Brighton Beach fun?
Definitely! Our patch of sea is exposed to the prevailing south-westerly winds, and the conditions are variable. When it is wind over wave, it can be lumpy and lively, and you will need to work with the waves. On a beat, you may find yourself repeatedly pointing up to split through the next crashing wave to prevent it killing your speed. On a run, you may find your boat surfing on a crest for tens of metres towards the beach before suddenly slowing into the trough.
When the waves are flattened by strong northerly or easterly winds, the sailing can be very fast. During a brisk northerly, you’ll find yourself looking towards the city to anticipate surges of wind generated by the north-south avenues. Soon, you’ll be watching out for the “West Street Whistle” to spill a little wind or go broad below your competitor in front who, failing to anticipate, stayed too tight and is having a “West Street Wobble”!
There can be no denying that the conditions can be challenging at times. There are days when the shore dump is heavy, and launching from and landing on the beach can be hair-raising. Many of our sailors will opt not to sail on such days. And, like anywhere, there are days when the wind fails us and we’re all having rather a slo-mo race. With the backdrop of the seafront and the city, however, it can be a glorious spot for a low-speed float!
Do I need to own a boat?
No, not at all. Most of the boats on our stretch of beach are privately owned, but many are two-handed catamarans. On a Sunday morning, cat helms are frequently looking for crew. Also, we have introduced club-owned "pool boats" intended for use by new members, and by other members who choose not to own a boat. There is more information about our pool boats on this page.
I'm worried that I’m not qualified for the duties. Can I still join?
Of course. The race-day duties consist of Officer of the Day (OoD) and Timekeeper onshore, plus the Rescue Helm and Rescue Crew in the safety boat. The OoD and Rescue Helm are always experienced members of the club. Onshore, we will normally only ask new and/ or inexperienced members to be Timekeeper. For a first-time Timekeeper, the OoD will explain everything that you need to do to perform the duty. And you’ll see first-hand what is involved in being OoD, for when the time comes that the club asks you to be OoD. Similarly, the Rescue Helm will guide a new crewperson through their first Rescue Crew duty.
And the bar duties are not difficult. You will spend most of your evening chatting to other members, plus members of our affiliate clubs, who also visit the bar on Wednesday evenings. Some new members have been a little wary or reluctant about doing bar duty before their first time, but many have expressed surprise afterwards at just how much they enjoyed doing it.
The club also runs training sessions each year to offer more guidance in helping members to perform their duties, and periodically organises for members to do the RYA Powerboat 2 and Safety Boat courses at subsidized rates.
When I first sail with you, what equipment will I need?
All you really need at first is whatever you'll be wearing on the water. The club doesn't provide personal equipment, but we do have a stockpile of used gear – mainly wetsuits and buoyancy aids – that has been left behind at the club over the years that members can borrow from. However you will likely very soon find that you want your own personal equipment.
On a bitterly cold and windy day in April, you may see some members donning a drysuit. On a hot day in August with little wind, the same sailors may head out in a rashie and shorts. However what most members wear most often is a 3mm full-length wetsuit. For cat sailing, it is also a good idea to opt for one with additional protection at the knees.
With a wetsuit, you may also want some other items to layer up on your torso. A spray top is pretty much essential. A “spray top” is basically a water- and windproof outermost layer. If you’ve ever stood in a cold wind in a soggy wetsuit, you’ll realise the importance of a spray top while sailing. In a pinch, a fairly trim-fitting rainjacket – without a hood – will suffice. When buying, there are many options, but frankly the Rooster Pro Lite Aquafleece may just be the very best one available.
For additional warmth in the shoulder months, you can also layer up underneath your wetsuit with a thermal base layer. On online stores, such tops are often listed amongst the rash vests, sometimes simply as “thermal tops”. Polypropylene ones that are fleecy on the inside are so nice on a chilly day!
Wearing a buoyancy aid with a minimum buoyancy of 50 Newtons is absolutely mandatory on the water. Aids with higher buoyancy ratings are available but are bulkier, so most members wear a 50N model. A buoyancy aid should last you for many years, so it is worth investing in the right one.
Buoyancy aids are generally highly adjustable as it is very important that they fit well. A snug-fitting buoyancy aid will feel much less cumbersome when sailing. And if it ever happens that you are in difficulty in the water, the easiest way for a rescuer to haul you out is by grabbing you by the shoulder straps of your buoyancy aid. In such a situation, if the aid is fitted too loosely, it is all too easy for an unresponsive person to slide out – making any rescue hugely more difficult.
Many types of gloves that have some kind of leathery palm protection – cycling, gym, gardening – will suffice in a pinch. When buying sailing gloves, two-finger-cut gloves are a good option. The tips of your thumb and index finger are exposed for any emergency knot-fiddling, but the digits that are largely redundant in the knot-fiddling process are better protected. They arguably afford you a slightly better grip than fingerless gloves too.
For footwear, any old white-soled gym shoes will suffice at first if just sitting in a dinghy, but you’ll soon want to upgrade. And if you are planning on trapezing, you will definitely need to upgrade. Go for 5mm neoprene boots that specify they are for dinghy sailing, and have some kind of cuff and/ or tightening system. Boots without any form of tightening system tend to become bloated with water. Thicker soled neoprene boots – such as many designed for scuba or kayaking – may suffice, but tend to offer very little grip when trapezing. On the other hand, very thin-soled trapezing boots offer amazing grip, but wear out quickly and are brutally uncomfortable when you're back on dry land and hauling your heavy boat back up our very stony beach!
In time, you may also want to invest in a trapezing harness, but this is something that you should be able to borrow at first.
What does the Supporters’ Club do?
The Supporters’ Club does exactly what it says on the tin: supports BSC in its aim of getting people sailing off Brighton Beach. We ask less active members to join the Supporters’ Club for very dull legal reasons, but many contribute hugely to BSC. Many partners and children of regular sailors are, through our ‘Family membership’ option, members of the Supporters’ Club. And we have a number of Supporters who used to be regular sailors – they may have hung up their sailing gloves, but still regularly pop by the bar of a Wednesday evening.
Please don’t worry too much about whether you should apply to join BSC or the Supporters’ Club. The Membership Secretary can explain everything if you get in touch.