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Islington Boat Club: ‘If an 89-year-old can sail the canal, so can anyone else’

PUBLISHED: 14:38 05 May 2016 | UPDATED: 17:34 05 May 2016

Islington Boat Club

Islington Boat Club "Upperdeckers" enjoying a day on Regent's Canal. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

Amanda Corcoran, of Islington Boat Club, thinks older people are ignored in the water sport world. It is why she set up a new club which gets over-50s on to Regent’s Canal – for free.

Islington Boat Club Islington Boat Club "Upperdeckers" enjoying a day on Regent's Canal. Picture: Ken Mears

Why should age be a barrier?

It’s the simple question Amanda Corcoran has been asking as she tours Islington’s community centres.

She has been busy promoting an important new scheme taking place on Regent’s Canal between 11am and 1pm every Tuesday.

Amanda is the development officer at Islington Boat Club, and the brains behind its new Upperdeckers club.

Upperdeckers is a weekly water sport session for over-50s only. The best thing is, it is completely free. All people need to bring is a towel and suitable clothes.

After four sessions, it has already attracted 30 people: the oldest being 89.

It is this “why not?” attitude that Amanda, 45, is keen to encourage.

“We are open to anyone, whether they are from Islington or not – as long as they are over 50.

Islington Boat Club Islington Boat Club "Upperdeckers" enjoying a day on Regent's Canal. Picture: Ken Mears

“You don’t even have to take part in the sailing. You can just come along and watch with a cup of tea or coffee.

“And even in those cases, we’ve had people on the sidelines think: ‘If these people my age can do this, then I can too’.”

Activities include sailing, kayaking, narrowboating, bellboating and powerboating.

Away from water sports, there are plans to introduce floating yoga, a form that uses a hammock.

Amanda, who has been at the club for two years, is able to offer all this for free after she secured lottery funding to cover 30 sessions, excluding half-terms.

But the concept is no experiment.

“I have worked in water sports for many years,” she says.

“Before I joined Islington, I used to work for Westminster Boating Base on the Thames and thought water sports is always about young people.

Staff Becca Wharfe and Amanda Corcoran from Islington Boat Club. Picture: Ken MearsStaff Becca Wharfe and Amanda Corcoran from Islington Boat Club. Picture: Ken Mears

“That’s great because it can change lives. But I wondered: ‘Why can’t it be for all ages?’

“So I started an Upperdeckers club at Westminster and it was such a success.

“I went full-time here in September and always wanted to start Upperdeckers here.”

Amanda, of Lee, south-east London, adds that the benefits are the same as any other organised exercise class.

“It’s simple – physical and mental health.

“Above all, it’s great from a social point of view. Older people maybe don’t have massive networks of friends, but this club brings people together. Our oldest Upperdecker so far is 89!

“The feedback has been brilliant. I was at the Peel Centre [off Pentonville Road] doing some outreach work for the Upperdeckers and one woman piped up.

“She had already been and at first thought she would never be able to do anything – but ended up kayaking on the Regent’s Canal.”

Upperdeckers can operate with more than 50 people per session. Call 020 7253 0778 or email bookings@islingtonboatclub.com


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