This sea-loving 84-year-old says sailing is the ‘perfect activity’ for families in Shoreham

A grandfather with a life-long passion for the sea, who remains an active sailor at the age of 84, wants more families to take up the sport and enjoy ‘amazing adventures’ together.

David Skinner at his boat, which is moored in Southwick
David Skinner at his boat, which is moored in Southwick

David Skinner has been an active member of the Sussex Yacht Club in Brighton Road, Shoreham, since 1971 and was the club’s Commodore in 1994.

For more than 40 years, he has been sharing his passion for sailing with people in Shoreham and taking newcomers out on his boat to show them the ropes.

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Mr Skinner said: “Nothing beats getting out on a boat and gaining hands-on experience.

David Skinner at his boat, which is moored in Southwick

“I try to gently stretch them, to encourage them to have a go.

“For some people simply walking from one side of the boat to another is a big achievement, whilst others are happy to climb up and down the mast – it really does depend on the individual.

“It’s all about gradually building people’s confidence on the water.”

Mr Skinner’s love for the sea started early – he grew up in a lifeboat family and often went fishing with his father, a keen angler.

David racing at Cowes week in 1993

He took up sailing when he moved to the south coast and bought a 17ft boat.

From then on, Mr Skinner, his wife Jennie and their two children would spend all their spare time sailing together.

Being part of the yacht club became a ‘major part’ of their lives and they all made ‘great friendships over the years’, Mr Skinner said.

The family also took part in races, with Mr Skinner entering Cowes Week, a sailing regatta, a number of times and his son completing the Southern Ocean leg of the Round the World Yacht Race, which took him from Sydney to Cape Town.

David's Cowes week team in 2005

Mr Skinner said: “I think learning to sail is one of the best things children can do, it teaches them so many life skills and they are outside in the fresh air gaining new experiences.

“Even now I take my grand-children out on my boat and we’ll have sleepovers with a takeaway as a treat.”

But it is not just youngsters who can benefit, and Mr Skinner said Sussex Yacht Club encouraged sailors of all ages and abilities.

“I took a lady in her seventies out on my boat and she fell in love with sailing straight away,” he said.

Mr Skinner was one of the original Trustees of Sussex Sailability, a voluntary organisation that enables people with disabilities to sail from the Yacht Club.

He said the new and improved clubhouse, which is set to be built in Brighton Road, would be more accessible for sailors with disabilities and would be ‘a huge asset to the local community’.

Now in his 80s, the grandfather-of-five still enjoys racing with his 42ft retirement boat and said sailing keeps him active.

He hopes more Shoreham families will take advantage of the sea on their doorstep.

“In my view, sailing is a perfect activity for families to enjoy together,” he said.

“It means so much to me and I have so many very happy memories.”

Families can join Sussex Yacht Club for an annual fee that works out at less than £20 per month, and you do not need to own a boat, a spokesman from the club confirmed.

To find out more about membership or taster days, call 01273 464868.