Apart from a bit of dinghy sailing, I had no sailing experience when I joined GCCC.
I crewed (“stowed away”) with various members for a season and they convinced me that I would get lots of support if I took the plunge. So I did an RYA Day Skipper course and bought my own boat. I have had an endless amount of help on all aspects of boat ownership from people who actually seem to enjoy assisting novices!
I bought an elderly starter boat that I didn’t have the confidence to sail. Various experienced members of the club came out with me till I felt able to venture out in the Solent unsupervised. At every rally, as I was sadly the last to arrive, people put their G&Ts down to take my lines and help me park. As I built up experience, members chaperoned me on my first channel crossing to Cherbourg as “skipper”, and my first night sail to Newtown Creek. Sailors with experience that includes sailing round the world have accompanied me on the summer cruises to northern France, the Channel Islands and Devon and Cornwall. A highly successful “round the island” racer has come out on my boat and shown me the rudiments of sail trim.
But my biggest challenge has perhaps been the maintenance of an elderly boat. The club’s members include those who have built their own boats (a beautiful Rustler 36), and skilled engineers. As I stumbled, advice on Tuesday nights at the club quickly turned into hands-dirty practical help at weekends which has included lifting engines, drilling holes below the waterline (gulp) and sorting out rigging.
I have just traded up from my starter boat and here too the club has supported me. I had the opportunity to go out in a dozen different boats to work out what I liked – then lots of people spotted likely boats for sale for me.
However far you want to take your sailing, GCCC is a small and friendly club which will support you every step of the way. I can truly say that I have never had a request for help refused. But most often, the offer was made before I even worked out what I needed to ask!