As I grew up, I had a habit of getting wet when I was staying anywhere near the sea, and if it floated I would try to have a go on it – be it canoes (surf or inland water), surf boards, a range of dinghies and even tall ships.
Behaving badly on the water isn’t a bad way to turn your mum’s hair grey, as long as you are learning how to be safe and where your limits are! Teaching kids sailing is about so much more than how to pull a rope here and when to shout ‘Starboard’ as if it was a curse there.
This piece is going to look at a kids’ sailing school in the US, a New Zealand sail training programme and the UK’s answer to getting kids on the water safely.
Last week, Sailing Scuttlebutt reprinted an article that interviewed the founder of a youth sailing programme in Maryland, USA. Holly O’Hare has had a lifelong passion for sailing and once an adult, set up a sailing programme for kids to perhaps give them the bug too.
The interviewer asked, why did you do this? She responded, “Because someone did this for me. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for all those who give to junior sailing. Junior sailing has given me far more than I can give back…but I will try.”
As discussed in a previous blog, there is no centralised syllabus for sailing in the US. Eastport’s programme is about showing how much fun life afloat can be and instilling confidence in the young sailor. O’Hare said, “Every lesson plan needs a fun component to reemphasize the skill being taught. Just sailing around buoys is boring… kids don’t want to just sail; they want to do other stuff on the water. So at EYC we incorporate kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing other boats.”
As a parent you will know you have succeeded when your kid is not afraid to try something new, and also not afraid to make a tit of themselves a few times while they learn what mistakes not to make next time. Learning most water sports tends to be about that – getting wet, having a laugh and having new experiences.
Sponsored by the sailing fanatics at Volvo, the yachting mad nation New Zealand has a youth sailing programme called Volvo Sailing… Have a go! Working with schools, the programme takes kids out of school for half a day or a day and shows them how much fun sailing can be while focusing on physical and personal development, science and the environment, and technology.
New Zealand is a nation that is fairly unique in that you will have bar flies discussing the ins and outs of the America’s Cup in as much detail as you may hear people speculating on the future of Manchester United’s manager in a UK pub. As such kids will be interested in the water from a young age, and the Volvo programme may well pique many a kid’s interest.
The programme involves taking 12 kids out on stable and steady Weta trimarans, coached by a Yachting New Zealand coach and an assistant. That, combined with the family talk of the latest scandals in elite sailing is one of the reasons so many Kiwis get on the water!
One of the most successful yachting certification organisations in the world is the RYA, with courses available as far afield as New Zealand, 12,000 miles away from the UK. As such someone must be doing something right there!
A number of clubs around the UK offer courses of around four days to get your kids out of the house and doing something productive that does involve spending money – £300 (approx. US$430) per kid isn’t cheap but does keep them out of trouble!
The courses follow the RYA syllabus – the first four-day course is for RYA Stage 1 and Stage 2 while the second is for RYA Stage 3 and 4. By the end of both of the courses, they will be safe and competent to sail in most conditions under some supervision.
As with other RYA courses, they need to accrue some sailing experience after completing the beginners’ stage, in order to have developed a certain amount of sea sense. Upon completion, you can let them loose on the club’s boats, reasonably confident that their energy levels will be somewhat low enough to manage when they get home and that they have had a really fun time over summer!
In 2014 The Boating Hub published an e-book that covered all the sailing courses around the world, and this included youth courses where applicable. Download it here and see perhaps get an idea where to get your kids sailing near you this summer!