Committee Focus – Ian Macwhinnie

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Part three of our Committee Focus introduces our Vice-Commodore (and Menagerie Fleet Captain), Ian Macwhinnie…

How did you get into sailing? I was looking up at a blue sky on a sunny Saturday afternoon in June 2000 and wondered what I would like to spend my leisure time doing and, just like that, the idea of sailing around a lake in a small boat came into mind and seemed very appealing.

How did you join DWSC? The next week I contacted Draycote and signed up for the RYA training courses run by the wonderful Terry Hand and Geoff Wood, who were such great stalwarts of the club and the training programme. After a couple of years still trying to figure it all out, I did the Dinghy Instructor training, initially to help my own sailing, but found to my surprise I really enjoyed teaching courses, so regularly taught the RYA programme for beginners, becoming a Senior Instructor along the way.

Why did you go on the Committee? I had been editing and producing the Club Newsletter Unshackled for a number of years, as well as designing club leaflets and writing press releases, all of which had got me involved in what was going on, so it seemed a natural development to go on the Committee.

What do you do on the Committee? I joined the Committee in early 2015 and began by taking over more of the marketing responsibility from Jeremy, starting with planning and running the annual Open Day which I have done five times now. As Vice Commodore, my job is in essence to do what the Commodore asks/tells me to do! This includes “special projects”, such as planning and “delivering” the 50th Anniversary, which was achieved due to the fantastic efforts of our paid staff. More recently I set up and participated in the BBC Cov & Warwick radio interviews in support of our Club of the Year application.

In addition, I am the Menagerie Fleet Captain, whose role is to represent the Fleet at the Fleet Captains Meetings and provide any support required for those in the Club with non-fleet boats. This includes establishing the rules by which the Menagerie Fleet runs its racing series. More details can be found on the Club Menagerie Fleet page.

What’s your best sailing experience? For simple all-round pleasure of sailing, I would have to say the Turkish coast with warm seas, friendly people, secluded bays and great food. A few sailing trips up the west coast of Scotland have also been really special, including one with a run across to Ballycastle in Northern Ireland past Fair Head. We also sailed around Fingal’s Cave to the melodic strains of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave) Overture. Pretentious, or what?

And at Draycote? Every year, just before or after membership renewals (I was lucky to get in early this year!), I seem to manage to find a sunny day with a pleasant westerly F4 and sail my RS Vareo with the kite up from one end of the lake to the other and I think to myself: I have already had full value out of my year’s membership!

Fireball sailing at Dracyote

More specifically, when I had my Fireball, I beat Mike Deane to the windward mark in a Fireball Open meeting. I was ahead by some distance but I could still see the whites of his eyes and the expression on his face — a look I can still see clearly! (Needless to say, he had overtaken me by the end!)

What is your most embarrassing sailing experience? On an RYA Level 1/2 course, two of my students were an elderly couple who were struggling to tack a Wayfarer in quite windy conditions. The only way to get them through the tack was for me to push the nose of the boat round from the Rigiflex I was in. This worked well enough two or three times. The next time, however, as I stood up to give the Wayfarer an extra shove with one hand, the other hand pulled on the throttle. As the boat accelerated, I was pitched out the back into the water. Fortunately, I had the kill cord on and the boat stopped, but I realised pretty quickly that I had not properly closed my drysuit after lunch and water was seeping in and filling my boots. You would be surprised how hard it is to climb into a boat with that weight of water in your boots! It was a pitiful call for help that went out on the radio!

Teaching a training course

Who inspires you? I am inspired by anyone who is able to overcome great adversity to achieve their potential.

Who would you like to swap places with for a day? A doctor working in an ICU during this emergency, to experience first-hand what it is like at the sharp end (though God help the patients!).

Which 4 individuals (living or dead) would you love to have dinner with? Reflecting some of my interests outside sailing: Amitav Ghosh, whose stunning Sea of Poppies trilogy brings to life our imperialist ambitions in India and China during the 19th century and their impact on ordinary people; Sir Garry Sobers, undoubtedly the greatest all-round cricketer ever and modest and generous as a man; EF ‘Fritz’ Schumacher who started the Intermediate Technology Development Group (now Practical Action) for which I worked when I first came to Rugby; and Robert Johnson, the most important blues singer ever, according to Eric Clapton.

Sailing my Vareo in the 2019 Draycote Dash