Sheena Barrow

Sheena Barrow


SMB Sailing Biography

Sheena Barrow
Rear Commodore Training

In 2019 Sheena had the honour of receiving an RYA Lifetime Commitment Award from HRH Princess Anne on behalf of Orford SC.

We have asked Sheena to tell us more about her life on the water.

“Where do I begin!

At the time I received my award from Princess Anne I said that I felt incredibly fortunate to be receiving the award and that sailing has been a love of mine since I was 11 years old. What began as a passion in my youth, then became a form of escape to follow my dreams.

Now I have come full circle to what has become a meaningful way of connecting with the community where I encourage children out on the water for the first time. I am convinced there are many life skills that can be developed through learning to sail such as confidence, team spirit, responsibility together with the forming of strong friendships and trust.

I discovered the joy of sailing in the Netherlands at a place called Roermond near to where my father was stationed during his service in the military. There was a small club on the east bank of the River Meuse.  We sailed Bosun dinghies and every weekend for a couple of years I could be found in my shorts and thick sweater hanging round the slipway looking to crew. This was a working river so many enormous heavily laden barges had to be given plenty of water. I clearly remember the delicious frietjes with mayonnaise after each sail.

My introduction to cruising was on a 32ft boat when I was 12, starting out from Kiel and exploring the Baltic sea to Denmark and some of the islands.  Although seasick, I remained hooked.

Returning to the UK my first proper job was for the RYA at their HQ in Victoria Street, London.  I attended the Boat Show, took minutes at IYRU meetings and carried out administrative work. But I missed life on the water and it was time to follow my dreams.

Aged 19, I boarded a banana boat at Hull and sailed to the Caribbean to live in the British Virgin Islands. This was the 1960s and these islands were wonderfully undiscovered by anything like cruise ships, or jet planes. I could not believe the beauty of such turquoise water and white sand. As crew, I sailed with the trade winds through most of the Windward and Leeward Islands. 

Based subsequently in Curacao I skippered a 35ft trimaran on day sails with American tourists.  During the low season I crewed on boats from as far away as the Great Lakes, Florida, the Bahamas, Panama and Mexico. I was learning so much and I was living the dream.

Eventually back to reality I found myself bashing across the English Channel crewing on cold and windy races to France.  I became inspired with qualifying for membership of the Ocean Cruising Club which required a 1000 nautical mile non-stop offshore passage in a vessel 70ft or less.  With some friends we sailed to Puerto Andraitx, Mallorca on a 37ft racing boat of French design.  I was delighted to be recognised in the UK as a blue-water sailor and with a lovely Flying Fish Ocean Cruising Club burgee.

I consider all this experience helped me find my tribe.  The essence of the sailing community is a potent combination of accomplishment, experience, idealism, eccentricity, generosity and humility.  The way I see myself contributing now is through volunteering and trying to encourage others to follow in my wake and discover the freedom and joy of sailing.

In 1997 having moved to Orford, I was introduced to the triumvirate running the OSC training. This was Penny Kay, Vicki Bingham and Liz Feibusch.  The rest is surely history, because here I Still am.   I remain totally addicted and passionate about messing about in boats, committed to Orford Sailing Club and through the RYA delivering safe and fun sailing for children.

Since joining Orford, I have only occasionally ventured into bigger waters – in 2017 I crossed the Atlantic with the ARC race and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and raising some money for Orford School.  I’m also planning another visit to the Lofoten Islands in Arctic Norway where I can combine stunning sailing with volunteering to clean up beautiful beaches.

I am incredibly grateful for all the support OSC and the membership have given to me over the years and also that I am working alongside many inspirational and talented young instructors here at Orford. I agree with the founding tenet that through volunteering and service those who enjoy sailing and have a vision can hopefully make a difference and inspire others.”