Harken Derm

Teach children to have fun sailing and watch the numbers grow

Published on April 2nd, 2015

Who says racing is the only way to acquire sailing skills? I say teach children sailing is fun and watch the numbers grow, writes Daria Blackwell in Yachting World…

For some reason, the teaching of sailing skills in many countries where sailing is an active pursuit has over the years changed from learning the ropes on a local body of water from an experienced friend to a rigorously structured multi-year racing-based certification process.

How did it evolve this way, and who says racing is the only way to acquire the necessary fundamentals?

I say bring back the fun and watch the numbers grow.

Two young girls visiting us from Nova Scotia couldn’t wait to tell me their stories. I had inspired them to take sailing lessons when we visited their home before crossing the Atlantic. Their mother read my blog to them as we completed a circuit round the Atlantic. They couldn’t wait to be old enough to learn how to sail.

Fast forward about six years and the girls were ready to master the craft. The older one, who is quite smart and emotionally a bit older than her 12 years, was the first to ask her parents if she could learn to sail.

She had been dreaming about it and watching the kids out on the bay. They gave her an enthusiastic endorsement. Off she went to sailing school at the local yacht club.

As she told the story, “The first time was great. They taught us about the wind and how the sails work and we went out in little boats and had great fun. I loved it. The second time, they started racing and I hated it. I really hated it. They were yelling and screaming and it was stressful. I never went back.”

For me to hear from a gorgeous young kid that sailing is stressful was painful. I know this myself. Racing actually destroys sailing for me. I had a stressful career so sailing was the antidote.

We would cruise out for the weekend, drop anchor, and stillness would prevail. For me, racing was the antithesis and made sailing stressful, the last thing I wanted it to be.

I told my young friend that sailing didn’t have to be stressful. I confirmed that I don’t like being yelled at either. I told her that aboard our boat, we have a rule. No yelling! She liked that.

But just then, her little sister four years younger had to tell me that she also tried sailing at age eight. On their first day, they were put into Optis to sail alone. She was terrified, she didn’t want to be alone without knowing what to do.

Much more… click here

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