Why more Yorkshire women than ever own and sail boats

Heather Thomas at Otley Sailing Club
Heather Thomas at Otley Sailing Club
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Readers of the Wind in the Willows will be familiar with the quote: “There’s nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.”

Now it seems that the classic adventures of Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger are mirroring real life as figures show 257,000 adults in Yorkshire took to the region’s waterways in 2014 with many owning their own boats.

Great Britain's Sophie Hosking (left) and Katherine Copeland celebrate winning gold in 2012

Great Britain's Sophie Hosking (left) and Katherine Copeland celebrate winning gold in 2012

In keeping with Kenneth Grahame’s novel it seems that many have been inspired to get in a canoe, kayak, yacht or other vessel and take to the waters both competitively and as a fun leisure activity with nationwide statistics showing it is a pastime which is also attracting the over-55s and females. Sailor Heather Thomas, 18, from Otley, hit the headlines last year when she was shortlisted for the 2016 Clipper Round the World race.

Liz Hainey, club secretary of the Malton and Norton Canoe Club, whose members kayak and canoe, said: “It’s a sport that anybody can take part in, its outdoors, any age group can do it, any ability, its just a lovely day out.

“It is just fantastic and what is lovely is when you are on the river itself you get a totally different view, it is just a lovely perspective.”

“We are getting more female members as we go along, it used to be an all-boys sport, but that’s not the case now.

What is lovely is when you are on the river you get a different view

Liz Hainey, club secretary Malton and Norton canoe club

“There’s plenty of over-55s as well - our oldest paddler is 68,” she added.

In the 2012 London Olympics athletes with Yorkshire links won an impressive haul of gold medals including Yorkshire rower Andrew Triggs-Hodge, from Skipton, won a second gold in the men’s four at London 2012 and Katherine Copeland, the Olympic gold winning rower went to school in Yarm.

Mrs Hainey said seeing kayaking at the Olympics inspired a lot of youngsters to give the sport a try.

The British Marine Federation released its annual Watersports Participation Survey today which show how many people throughout the country are involved with boating in activities including small sail boat racing, yacht racing, power boating, canal boating, canoeing, rowing, windsurfing and others.

More than 1.2m boats are owned by households in the UK, an increase to 1,214,154 in 2012-14, from 1,163,726 in 2011-13 - with 44,084 households in Yorkshire owning one or more boats in 2014.

In Yorkshire, almost half of the boats were canoes or kayaks with at least 19,479 owned by local residents.

Nationally the number of females taking to the seas, rivers, canals and other waterways by boat is on the increase as is the number of over-55s taking up the sports. In Yorkshire alone, according to the figures, 136,000 people took to the water in a canoe last year, which was higher than the national average.

Howard Pridding, chief executive of British Marine Federation said: “The figures for the number of people participating in boating and watersports are encouraging but there’s also plenty of room for growth.”

Julian Pearce, spokesman for Leeds Rowing Club, which recently opened a second base in the city due to a rise in popularity said: “I would say that we have got an unprecedented demand for rowing in the Leeds area.

“I think in the past there has been a stigma attached to rowing that it is for the elite but we are seeing a change in attitude now.”

He said the sport was also proving popular with females who made up 60 per cent of club members.