About the Open Canoe Sailing Group

Canoe-sailing began in Britain in the 1860's and within a few years had established itself both in Britain and in the United States of America. Some early canoes were decked, with very large sail areas, considerable lead ballast and heavy iron centreplates. It was not until the turn of the century that sailing unballasted open canoes began, at Sheepshead Bay, on the Eastern seaboard of the USA and became very popular. Eventually they were to become the canoes sailed by the American Canoe Association.

Canoe-sailing has continued in Britain and the USA throughout this century although it was not until April 1990 that sailing canoes became re-established in any kind of semi-formal organisation in the United Kingdom.

During the summer of 1990 the Open Canoe Sailing Group came into being with the publishing of dates for meets and a regular monthly newsletter. It was formed to serve the needs and wishes of its members and to promote expertise and interest in canoe sailing. Although it is really a national "club" for like-minded people, members are keen for it to remain informal, relaxed and sociable. Nevertheless, some members who are so inclined both cruise and compete seriously.

It would be reasonable to say that the Group's activities have been a significant influence on the further development of canoe and rig design, together with appropriate equipment and skills for extended cruising, improving performance and enhancing safety. The Group encourages newcomers to the activity and provides a meeting point for people to exchange ideas. It affiliated to the British Canoe Union in 1995.

What do we do?

Meets are arranged in many different parts of the country in an attempt to provide a variety of experience and a 'local' venue for as many canoe-sailors as possible. Meets happen about every month from April to October; on the water some people stay close to the launch area, within sight and the support of others, while many tend to head off for a day cruise and a picnic and/or teashop visit according to what the venue offers. We encourage people to team up with one or two other sailing-canoes and sail together for mutual support; we operate a sign out/in system to assist in this.

The group is financed by membership subscriptions. We have an occasional newsletter called The Gossip (link to some back issues) that carries meet reports, cruising news, notification of meetings etc and many items of general and technical interest to the canoe-sailor. Social media is increasingly used to keep in touch between meets, share photos and discuss ideas etc - mostly via the group page on Facebook

Many members have made long expeditions, on coastal as well as more sheltered waters. Sailing canoe journeys frequently include an element of paddling such as when the wind dies away - a feature of any sailing-canoe should be the dual capability is not jeopardised and that its fitting-out allows for both efficient paddling as well as sailing.

With the maxim of the canoe-sailor being
"sail when you can - paddle when you must"
the sailing-canoe really is a craft for all seasons!


Sail Numbers and Insignia - Although some of our members are happier to leave their sails blank and unadorned with any "class mark" or number, there is an argument for us being proud of what kind of sailing craft we are and displaying it. The "Open Sailing Canoe" does not have recognition as a Royal Yachting Association boat class, but on a few occasions we have raced in dinghy sailing club mixed handicap races; from that experience we have adopted a Portsmouth Number of 1300, so similar in performance to a Topper or Mirror. For 2018 we will be introducing a system where OCSG members are allocated a membership number that they can also use as their sail number, which they can add to their sail if they wish (existing members with sail numbers will retain them and that will also be their membership number). A set of numbers and the Open Canoe class mark/insignia (an overlapping 'O' and 'C') are available for £10 (includes UK postage) from the club. They are an appropriate size for our relatively small sails and can be obtained by emailing info@ocsg.org.uk 


The group's affiliation to British Canoeing requires a constitution, a copy of which can be found here

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