St Annes is seen by many as the spiritual home of sand yachting – and in a month’s time it is set to make a comeback after 12 years away.
It is hoped that a trial return for the sport – featuring mini-yachts – will lead to a revival of interest and the possible reformation of the locally-based club which for many years hosted national and even European events on the town’s beach.
Sand yachting and other associated sports were banned at St Annes after mother-of-two Carole Cruz died after a collision with a craft on the sands in 2002.
More than a decade on, after working closely with environmental watchdog Natural England, Fylde Council issued a six-month license for other windsports.
Now, organisers of the trial set for October 18 aim to show that yachts, albeit in a much smaller form than was the case 12 years ago, can safely return to the resort on a regular basis.
And veteran champion Ian Dibdin is hopeful that eventually St Annes might again welcome participants and spectators from all over the country and further afield.
Ian addressed the latest meeting of St Annes Chamber of Trade over his hopes for the sport’s revival – and saw them greeted with delight.
Businessman Andrew Smith said: “This could be one of the best things to happen to St Annes for some time. Along with the town’s kite festival, which has really established itself so well over the last three years, I believe this could help blaze a trail for the revival of the town.
“We have an amazing expanse of beach and we really need to be making the most of it. It has so much potential for events and the kite festival has shown what is possible by attracting visitors galore. I am absolutely delighted with this idea.”
Chamber of Trade chairman John Moxham said the initial impact of sand yachting might initially be small – but could grow and grow.
He added: “I think it will take some time for sand yachting to have an effect.
“But if it is part of a summer package, it can grow and grow. It could become a very large international event welcoming thousands. Many people call St Annes its spiritual home.
“It won’t be a major success overnight but can be part of the package this coast offers – and there is the added benefit of it being the ultimate green, environmentally friendly sport.”
Eddie Sloane, owner of Trax Windsports, which will provide the location for the trial, said the return of the sport could only be a positive.
He added: “For my part it can only have a positive impact in terms of tourism.
“Any opportunity for young people to be involved in sport can only be a good thing.
“But it must be safe and sustainable.
“It is also important other beach users work alongside the sand yachters to ensure everyone can enjoy using the beach.”
Coun Howard Henshaw, a long-time enthusiast for the sport, has led an all-part working group of councillors pushing for the trial revival and said: “St Annes has an immense amount of history as far as the sport is concerned.
“It is important to take one step at a time and this trial event is a case of showing the council that the sport can be undertaken safely.”
Initial hopes were that the trial next month could be held over two days but Ian said it has been decided to concentrate it into one because of travel arrangements for participants and related considerations.