Confessions of a Failed OppieMum

This is a guest post (of sorts). I was looking up some facts and figures in an old OP:NEWS (the newsletter for the Optimist Class Association of the UK) when I came across an article that my aunt had written. I asked her if she'd mind me reproducing it here, and she kindly allowed me.

The three cousins she mentions are, of course, all grown up now, and they are three of the most wonderful people I know. It's a shame they don't sail anymore. I love this article not just because it could have been written now, but also because it captures the three of them in a moment in time. I still remember Sally's excursion on the water that day, and Gill's description is exactly as I remember it too. She hit the pontoon so hard the rudder nearly left the water.

Anyway, enough of my rambling - here's my aunt's confessions of a failed OppieMum.


Confessions of a Failed Oppiemum

By Gill Madley

So here we are again - the season kicks off in an organised fashion as might be expected. It takes two trips to transport us to Wraysbury for the Oppie Openers. Our car, not being a Volvo, hasn't the capacity to hold two adults, three children, two sails (with masts), three lifejackets, two pairs of new wellington boots which we have to stop on the way to buy, the little blighters having grown since last year, and a large assortment of what turns out to be totally inedible cakes, lovingly baked by my own fair hand.

As I arrive at the club I'm greeted by a tearful Sally: "My boat's all gone wrong!" An apprehensive inspection reveals that she is right - -mast, sail and sprit seem to be hopelessly entangled with a lot of demented string knitting. "Go," I say reassuringly, "and tell Daddy". And off she trots. It amazes me that after a whole year of sailing the children still seem to believe that either one of their parents will have the faintest idea what to do in a crisis. Mind you, I have to admit that Himself is improving. He can just about tell a batten from a bowsprit, and his range of knots has increased 100% - he now knows two.

The day progresses. Sally takes her boat out once, shoots halfway across the lake at the nautical equivalent of forty miles per hour, panics, loses control, regains control, shoots back across the lake at the nautical equivalent of forty miles per hour and straight into the pontoon. Her sailing style goes a long way towards explaining why Oppies have blunt bits instead of pointed bits at the front. How she manages to miss the other boats on the pontoon is a mystery. Kevin and I man the bar manfully which saves us the embarassment of shouting encouragement from the shore. Everyone seems to know the technical terms and can give helpful advice like "Bring her round into the wind" or, "Centreboard up, you're on a run" which makes our cries of "for Heaven's sake give it some wellie" sound rather pathetic. Not that Kate ever listens anyway, she's too busy giving the benefit of advice to others. For her next birthday I'm seriously considering buying her a megaphone.

The children come in to land periodically to be fed. Soon the club is littered with plates, empty save for lumps of cake with one bite and only one bite taken out of them. I'd put the remnants out for the birds if I wasn't so fond of wildlife. Kevin and I continue to manfully man the bar. Kate recovers from the sulk she descended into when I made her come ashore to change out of her best coat and good grey boots into something more suitable for sailing, and Jenny eventually accepts the ruling that as she is not yet five she will not be allowed to go out sailing in what seems to me like a force nine gale. Sally is keeping very quiet - I reckon she knows when she's well off. Chip off the old block, bless her.

Maybe in my next incarnation I will be one of those parents who can fix virtually anything with six inches of rope and a bit of bent wire. Maybe one day my hours of standing with my mouth hanging open on the pontoon will bear fruit and I will finally understand how to rig an Oppie. Maybe one day I'll get to like the dank, dirty smell of sopping wet children. Meantime the children will have to accept me as I am and just be thankful that no matter what happens I never, ever lose my temper...

2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Failed OppieMum

  1. I think Auntie Gill is the perfect Oppie Mum. The role of Oppie parents should be to buy the kids all the gear they need, drive them to the yacht club and then let the kids get on with it. The parents who insist on solving every little problem the kids have (let her unravel her own messed-up rigging) and shouting advice at their kids while sailing are not really helping at all. One of the great virtues of Opti sailing is that it teaches self-reliance and independence… but it only does so if the “helicopter parents” get out of the way.

  2. She was a pretty good Oppie Aunt too. We were lucky that the parents at our club were encouraging and helpful, but not excessively competitive – it was a good environment to learn sailing. Even when we started travelling to events it was more about the fun than the results.

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