VIDEO: Olympic sports - Sailing in Bedford

Buoyed by the upcoming Olympics I decided to try my hand at one of the many sports that will keep viewers transfixed this summer, writes Mark Wood.

Great Britain will have plenty of medal hopefuls at the 2012 London Games with sailing sure to provide some of our best hopes.

Nestled in Priory Country Park, Priory Sailing Club kindly invited me to see if I had what it takes to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Ben Ainslie.

Under the tutelage of Commodore Tim Hewett I was kitted out with a coat to shield me from the winds and a life jacket should the worst happen and we capsize on a particularly blustery day.

The family-orientated club boasts more than 200 members and has over 40 boats for their use, yet is only one of two sailing clubs in Bedfordshire along with Stewartby.

Having only sailed a couple of times in my youth it was with some trepidation that I clambered into the Wanderer alongside Hewett, 57, who has been sailing at the club for over 20 years.

The members-run club host three or four national and regional events a year and have a strong racing element along with a booming social side.

Hundreds of local school students are also welcomed in each year as Hewett said: “We bring the scouts in and schools come.

“We run courses for both children and adults and we have open days.

“We have loads of community access to our club as well as being members of the club.

“That’s been a strength of the club, we run kids courses, the kids join and mum and dad follow and although we do race it’s also a social place to come.”

With active members ranging from around seven to in their 80s the club also boasts young Joseph Mullen who could become a real name in the race world.

The young Bedfordian finished 19th in his topper in the world around 12 knots.

I was given the simple enough task of controlling one of the sails as we ventured to a buoy on the far side of the lake.

I also had to scoot along the middle seat to help redistribute the boat’s weight as it lurched in the strong winds.

In fact we passed several capsized boats on the day, but almost all of them were able to be self-righted by the sailors who found themselves in the soup.

Midway through the Commodore had the ridiculous idea of passing me the tiller and asking me to steer the craft.

Pointing at a buoy in the distance he tasked me keeping it in a straight line and much to my amazement I did it.

In fact there were no major mishaps, although there were the odd moments when I struggled with the counter-intuitive notion of pushing or pulling the tiller in the opposite direction to where I seemingly wanted to go.

I even impressed myself by sailing to within a foot of a buoy I was directed to, although I think Hewett was more than a little kind with how he controlled the sail to help, much like a clutch in a car.

The club sails almost all-year round and are only thwarted when the lake freezes over in the winter.

For more information on the club visit

Junior and student memberships are available from just £30 with family membership as little as £175. The club’s next open day is on Sunday, August 12, running from 10am to 4pm and with a session costing just £2.

For a video of the event, see