Grafham Water Sailing Club
is easy to find - only three miles from the A1 and five miles from the A14, in Cambridgeshire. The club is situated in the village of Perry, which is on the B661. From the A1 at the roundabout in Buckden head west, following the signs for Perry and Grafham Water. On reaching the centre of Perry village, turn down Chichester Way (opposite the Wheatsheaf Pub) and keep going until you reach the end of the road, where you will find the club entrance.
Three miles long and 1.5 miles across at its widest, the 1600 acres of open water provide perfect sailing conditions for racing or cruising. The relatively flat surrounding countryside of Western Cambridgeshire does little to disturb the lighter breezes, a major problem on so many inland waters.
At the other end of the wind spectrum, most people's concern relates more to safety. Grafham is widely regarded as one of the safest venues in the country, in any conditions. The uninterrupted expanse of water affords all round visibility for the radio co-ordinated rescue service. Three high-speed purpose-designed rescue craft patrol the lake, driven by trained voluntary two-man crews who are backed up by a full time coxswain and bosun. Four other boats are available as committee boats, tow boats or for general back-up. In fact, precisely because Grafham is so open and devoid of dangerous obstacles, it is often possible to sail in wind strengths that would be unsafe anywhere else, particularly on the coast. But if it's waves you want, Grafham can still oblige. In a 'decent' breeze 4ft waves are quite the norm. Just think, all those lovely waves and no tide, no long walks with your boat or sailboard, no launching or recovery problems and all year sailing, 7 days a week.
Too good to be true? Not at all. It's what members and visitors to Grafham take for granted.
No wonder some of the 1600 members drive more than a hundred miles each way, just to race at Grafham on a Sunday. No wonder there is a queue of classes wanting to hold open meetings at Grafham, or that the RYA use Grafham as one of their most important training bases, or that British Olympic yachting contenders practise and race here.
A five-start system is used for Sunday racing. The most active fleets currently are the Dart 15s, Flying Fifteens and Lasers. There is a handicap start which covers just about anything else. If you own a windsurfer and fancy a change from 'blasting' up and down, enjoyable as it is, racing is arranged regularly, on special courses, for a growing number of devotees. Each fleet has a Fleet Captain who co-ordinates its racing, represents its interests at committee level and is available to give help and advice, particularly to new members. During the summer, we run a Wednesday evening series, a pleasant way to break up the week with a short race followed by a meal on the 'top deck'.
On the ground floor of the Clubhouse hot and cold food (supplied by professional caterers) nourishes sailors, be they wet or dry. The first floor is taken up with changing rooms, showers and toilets.
The second floor houses the administration offices and the 'top deck' bar, with its glorious views across Grafham Water. This is a popular facility with club members, open meeting visitors and as a venue that can be hired for evening functions, wedding receptions etc. The Club's caterers have a first class reputation for dealing with a client's special requirements.
Adjacent to the Clubhouse is the children's play area and cabin.
As already mentioned, Jonti Sailboards offer expert tuition in the art of windsurfing and dinghy sailing. Adjacent to the Club is the residential centre run by the Cambridgeshire Education Authority. In offering weekend or longer courses, from absolute beginner through to advanced race training, they complete the comprehensive training picture at Grafham. As a bonus, anyone who learns to sail or windsurf, either at Jonti or the Grafham Centre, can go on to join the Sailing Club and save themselves the entry fee. Details from the Secretary.
Grafham Water Sailing Club rightly claims to offer the finest inland sailing in the country.