Students sets sails with donor support

A STUDENT'S UNIVERSITY experience is about more than their academic achievements. Often, it’s the extracurricular activities that can help build their confidence, skills and friendships, and shape their future career. That’s why QMU’s Student and Vice-Chancellor’s Development Fund is so important. It helps students benefit from key opportunities that they may otherwise miss out on.

Ellen Clark is a fourth-year QMU physiotherapy student with a passion for sailing. Not only has her favourite hobby helped with her own health and wellbeing throughout her time at university, it’s strengthened her understanding of the connection between physical therapy and mental health.

Ellen was understandably delighted to secure an award of £820 from QMU’s Student and Vice-Chancellor’s Development Fund, which allowed her to compete at last year’s RS200 National Championships at Hayling Island Sailing Club. She gives us an insight into her experience of sailing and her time at the competition.

Tell us more about your sailing. 

My mum sailed when she was young. She thought I’d enjoy it too, so when I was about 10 years old, she enrolled me on a week-long course during the summer holidays.

I’m a member of the East Lothian Yacht Club in North Berwick. As well as racing, I’m a dinghy instructor for the club and train young people and adults how to sail.

I sail on a two-person boat, with my sailing partner who’s the helm, with me being the crew. We’ve been sailing together for three and half years.

I’ve only been racing competitively for a few years. Our boat is a RS200 dinghy, and we compete in sailing events across Scotland and the UK.

What do you enjoy most about sailing?

I love being out on the water. It’s great that it’s a lifelong activity, and something I can do competitively or just for fun. I also enjoy the social side of things. I’ve made long-lasting friendships with students from other universities and sailors I’ve met at our home club and through competitions.

Does your physiotherapy studies enhance your sailing performance?

Definitely, I’m more aware of the muscles I’m using when I’m sailing, as well as how my gym training affects my body. I’m conscious of muscle recovery too. The skills I’ve learned at QMU are also helpful for when my sailing partner or I are injured!

How has sailing influenced your physiotherapy studies?

Being physically active and doing something I enjoy has helped strengthen my understanding of the link between physical therapy and mental health.

My dissertation focuses on the benefits of cold-water swimming as a therapy.

How did the Fund help you?

It paid our entry fee to the RS200 National Championships and travel costs. We also bought a new jib, which is one of three sails on the boat. This helped improve our boat’s speed and put us on a level playing field with the top sailors in the class in terms of equipment.

I’m so grateful to QMU for recognising and supporting something that’s an important part of my life out with the classroom.

Tell us about the RS200 National Championships?

It’s a five-day event, with two races each day that last about an hour. Last year’s competition was eventful before we even raced. Our car broke down and we arrived at the event on the back of an AA tow truck!

Each race began with us lined up in the dinghy park waiting to launch; we then sailed for around 30 minutes to the racecourse for a gate start. We raced a windward/leeward course, which has two marks. We sailed upwind from our start line to the first mark (the windward mark) moving in a zigzag, went round the mark and then sailed downwind to the second mark (the leeward mark).

In events like the Nationals, you sail beside professionals who are competing at the highest level. The RS200 is considered one of the most competitive sailing classes in the UK with Olympians, such as silver-medalist Luke Patience, regularly competing.

Were you pleased with your performance?

Yes, we finished 26th out of 182 boats overall. Our best result was seventh place in one race.

This was the most competitive championship there’s ever been with the highest number of entrants. We improved our position from the previous year, where we finished 31st out of 120 boats.

We’re hoping to do even better when our home club in North Berwick hosts the RS200 National Championships in 2023!