Sailing School is Fun (Finally!)
Sailing School is Fun (Finally!)
It’s hard to emphasize how important fun is for a successful sailing school. And GHYC knew how to show the kids a good time. There was a cake day (where everyone baked and brought in cakes, with prizes for the best), a sail to nearby Union Hall for ice cream at Fuller’s market, and a picnic day on Rabbit Island. Sure, there were routine sailing school drills. But the kids learned a lot about sailing simply because a lot of the time they were on boats having a good time doing other things.
My daughter and her friends with their winning Cake Day entry.
And even when there was too much wind for the beginners to go out, no problem. Take the mast out of a Topaz, stick a bunch of kids on it inside the harbor wall, and see if they can get it from one place to another using a garbage bag for a sail. And then take that away and let them learn about weight placement and how easy it is to turtle a dinghy (and how hard it is to right it without a centerboard).
Learning without knowing you are learning is always the best way. And while I don’t have much experience with American sailing schools, my impression is that there is more emphasis on preparing kids for the cutthroat world of Opti sailing and junior competition. That seems like a recipe for potential burnout. If a kid wants to race, first the kid must love simply being on a dinghy out on the water. And I am happy with any sailing school that emphasizes that part along with safety and seamanship.
The ISA training gets more serious, of course, as the sailors progress. The courses are structured as a well-defined progression, and each level teaches new and additional skills. When a kid masters a required skill, that is noted in an ISA logbook that each kid carries through the entire program. Master enough, and you move on to the next level. There is lots of chatter and excitement at the end of each course over whether a child is graduating to the next level or not. And, yes, sometimes kids fail to move up (ISA is more interested in turning out competent sailors than boosting egos). The logbooks remind me of the skills books good ski schools use, and they are an excellent way to focus a child on where he or she is, and what skills need attention. My kids eat that stuff up because it gives them a concrete look at what they need to achieve to keep moving up the ladder.
The system also makes it easy for a child to make a multi-year commitment to the sport because they know they are not “done” until they have climbed to the top of the course ladder (and many come back as instructors). At the same time, they are encouraged to get on the helm right away, and I have started to adapt to my new role as rail meat, jib trimmer, and early warning system regarding imminent collisions. It’s a role I’ve been waiting a long time to play.
Morning brief, before going sailing.
Now we are back in Washington, D.C., and the fall sailing season on the Chesapeake looms. I’ll be interested to see whether their Glandore sailing school enthusiasm translates into an interest in sailing (rather than simply being on) the Beneteau 36.7. Already they are agitating for a Topaz dinghy to sail by themselves on the Rhode River of the Chesapeake Bay, and telling their friends all about what they learned and saw out on Glandore’s waters.
Thanks, GHYC sailing school.