Swallows and Amazons revival at Horning

They are books which evoke an era when children loved the simple pleasures of messing about on boats, camping, fishing and swimming.

While many lament the passing of youthful adventure in today's computer-focused, health and safety- dominated generation, one Broads sailing club is proud to still uphold the spirit of Arthur Ransome and his Swallows and Amazons series set in the Lake District and later on Norfolk's waterways.

At the very time some prominent Broads sailing veterans have raised concerns about a decline in the number of young people taking to the water, Horning Sailing Club has seen a remarkable rise in its youth membership with more than 80 children sailing regularly on Thursday evenings.

To celebrate the achievements of youngsters following in the footsteps of Ransome's redoubtable adventurers – the Walker children (Swallows) and Blackett children (Amazons) – the club held a special event yesterday at the end of its open regatta week.

Swallows and Amazons: The Sequel was a chance for young members not only to race in Topper and Optimist dinghies but also indulge in an adventure a la Ransome, dressed as pirates and armed with maps for a treasure hunt by boat.

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To highlight the theme, the club put on show the dinghy Swallow which appeared in the 1974 Swallows and Amazons film starring Virginia McKenna and the Death and Glory boat which appeared in a later adaption of Ransome's Coot Club, set in Norfolk.

Holly Hancock, 22, of Reynold's Lane, Potter Heigham, has been the driving force behind the club's youth section and is proud to see children as young as eight now taking up sailing.

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Although she has been sailing all her life – 'I was first out on the water at three weeks old on my parents' boat' – she noticed a lack of provision for youngsters in the club and was bold enough to write a letter to the committee at the age of 14.

She said: 'I was given the chance to change things; starting with just six children the youth section has now grown to more than 80 youngsters who regularly go out on boats.

'Learning to successfully handle a boat is tremendous for boosting confidence. You really see children coming out of themselves when they are in control of what they are doing. Parents have remarked on the change.' She said many of the older members were excited to see Swallow and Death and Glory, saying it was the books that had drawn them into sailing.

Kim West, regatta president, said it was remarkable to see the difference in some of the young sailors from last year's regatta.

'Whereas last year they were cautious, now they are assertive and brimming with confidence. It is astonishing to see them handle a small Optimist out among some large cruisers,' he said.

Club member Tim Joiner, who organised the Swallows and Amazons event, borrowing Swallow from enthusiasts in the Lake District and Death and Glory from its Norfolk owner, said: 'Despite the rain the youngsters were really getting into the spirit of it, dressing up and revelling in the sailing.

'There were at least 20 children who would not have been there without Horning Sailing Club. We are turning the bank-side viewers into tomorrow's sailors.'

Tegan Arnold, 15, of North Walsham, was not concerned about the torrential rain after finishing third in her Topper race.

'It is brilliant in this weather because there is more wind. Sailing is really good for boosting your confidence and I have even managed to get my boyfriend out sailing,' she said.

Club commodore Stuart Bailey, whose sons Ezra, 13, and Joel, 10, both sail, said the sport was great for developing social skills and sailing was an activity where the very young and old could compete at the same level.

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