Time for a new hobby. I'd been introduced to sailing a Wayfarer by the in-laws in Suffolk and back in Somerset I was wondering what the options were short of moving out east to join them. I managed to coincide a family outing with a visit to the local sailing club barbecue/bits and bobs sale. The signs weren't good, the family refused to eat any of the sailing sausages and I was the only person showing any enthusiasm for 2nd hand buoyancy aids and spare trailer tyres. We did however come away with phone numbers for two Mirror dinghy which were for sale. I even knew that the Mirror was a 1960's and 70's  classic - the Ford Escort of sailing boats.

Back home and on the phone to the owner of the cheapest one. The next family outing was to see it. The result was a total conversion for all of us, with sails flapping gently in the breeze, a freshly renovated, bright red dingy was paid for there and then and collected the next day. As a taste of the practical hurdles to come, our car not having a tow bar, I borrowed a friend's transit van for the collection and limped home with no 1st gear, no trailer lights and a wheel bearing which sounded like thunder. We had reached the point of no return and 'Dennis' was rigged on the drive and kept overwinter in the garage while I read all the sailing books that I could find. I often wondered if the anticipation of summer sailing was going to be better than the real thing...

Spring eventually arrived, along with a tow bar from ebay which cost more than the boat, the sailing licence, insurance, and Shearwater sailing club membership. I was set to go to the pre-sailing spring clean at the club. It was a happy day spent with another new member, cleaning the loos and the men's changing rooms. When we left there were many homeless spiders and some fairly clean floors. So far so good, but next Sunday was 'The First Thrash'. It sounded ominous.

On a sharp learning curve that Sunday in March, I discovered how quickly I could tip the Mirror over and land straddled between the boat and the pontoon with my bum in the water. After that, an old salt, Colin, patiently helped me with useful advice and a steadying hand on my shroud. Another new friend was made and I had found my sailing mentor. Colin's parting shot was 'Will we see you for the first race next week?' Later I was to discover Colin's dry sence of humour, but back then, I took his suggestion at face value.

Over the next few weeks my hobby turned into an obsession. I scooped up the 'first, full, wet capsize of the season' handshake from Colin and began to finish races as well as start them. Then, one week in April, I got the 'Well done Peter!' from several of the club members as I was packing up my boat. To my surprise, I'd won a race! - but I'd better explain about the club handicap system: In order to encourage novice sailors, many clubs, including Shearwater, have a personal handicap, in this case 20% extra time, for their new-to-sailing members. This is added to the boat's handicap (a slow old Mirror gets 30% more time for a lap than the faster Laser) and I had only to sail 4 laps round the course in just under the time the experienced chaps and ladies sail 6 laps in their fast boats. Do this and 'Dennis' and I were winners!

Even on a small lake, it's lonely out there and I soon discovered that constant concentration and adjustments are required to hold it all together. It's also most important to let other sailors know what you're going to do, especially if you're not quite sure of the rules. 'I'm getting out of your way' works wonders for diplomacy, especially if you are about to beat them with your 'bandit's handicap'.

The family, have started to sail too. Our youngest lad is at West Wilts Youth Sailing Association and we have bought a second-hand Laser which the boys love to sail and capsize in.I call it 'the beast' and get a buzz out of sailing an 'Olympic Class' boat. Jenny sometimes sails in the Mirror, but prefers her sister's bigger boat. So watch this space for future keel-boat exploits.

Is it expensive? £1,800 has bought two boats, all the wetsuit kit, tow bar, club membership, etc. and a 3 day sailing and camping holiday (Roadford, Cornwall- highly recommended). It's more than we usually spend on 'fun' but what fun!

Peter Barnes Aug 2010.

The fun continues in 2011: I'm joining Shearwater Sailing Club Committee, I've polished the Mirror and varnished the Laser (or is it the other way round?) Took part in 'The Bristol Cup' race today - and capsized. Lake swimming on the 3rd April beat that.  

And finally for now, my first day sailing Mirror 32. Please note the white horses. It was nearly a brown pants day!