Sailing club moves with changing tides

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The realities of living through a pandemic mean many summer activities are looking different this year, including the specialty day camps that kids and parents look forward to.

That’s the case at the Salt Spring Sailing Club, where changes have been made to accommodate a revised version of the annual sailing school for kids and teens. The program kicked off with a soft launch under especially windy conditions last week. A waiting list is now open for future sessions, recognizing the provincial and national COVID-19 situation could change at any time.

April Faget, the volunteer who is coordinating the program this year, said the school has reduced capacity since most of the two-person teaching dinghies will have to be used by just one student, unless siblings or people in the same bubble register together. That’s unfortunate since more people than ever seem to be interested in sailing.

“For kids it’s a way of building confidence,” Faget said. “And when a kid can sail their own boat they’re outdoors and they’re disconnected from devices.”

“After sailing a dinghy you can sail anything,” she added. “They are really tippy and really sensitive, but you learn fast. The bigger boats have a wider margin of error — you don’t fall into the water when you make a mistake, usually.” 

Faget observed sailing is becoming more popular as a women’s sport as well.

“It’s something girls can do as well as or better than boys. Sometimes they can put more attention on the task ahead of them,” she said. 

Changes to the sailing school program in response to COVID health and safety guidelines mean all instruction and activities will take place outdoors, instead of some things being in the clubhouse. The usual camp games on land cannot take place. 

The school also won’t be able to accommodate any kids under the age of 10 this year, while a more cautious approach to lessons on the water is being implemented.

“One of our protocols is we’re trying not to rescue people. So we’re being more reserved about going onto the water in the big winds,” Faget said. 

The sailing camp usually attracts up to 40 per cent of its students from other communities. This summer the club is making an effort to serve only residents of British Columbia, but they are particularly focused on getting local youth involved. Offering one-week courses instead of two-week programs is part of that effort. 

“We have a lot of intro classes this year because we’re looking to do more for Salt Spring, and for people who have never sailed before, maybe this is your first opportunity,” Faget said. 

With B.C. boat dealers reporting record sales to local customers this spring, perhaps it’s not surprising the sailing club has also seen increased requests for adult lessons. Faget said many adults seem to be realizing that learning to sail is a goal and they want to learn now that they have more time, or they want to do the things they’ve been putting on the back burner.

Award-winning B.C. novelist Elle Wild signed her entire family up for lessons this summer. 

“My husband and I have always wanted to sail and dream of one day owning our own boat. Since we are here all summer due to COVID, this seemed like the perfect time to start learning,” Wild said. “I’m a bit of a travel junkie, and I’m not entirely comfortable with camping because of the shared facilities, but a boat allows you to stay in your bubble and still satisfy your wanderlust: it’s a perfect solution. We hope to learn on a Laser and work our way up — one day.”

Faget noted the sailing club puts on its junior school program at a loss each year. The club is fortunate to have continued support since many other sailing schools are not able to operate in 2020.

“The boats are expensive and we have to pay for instructors, but we feel strongly our mandate in the community is to get people out sailing, and to get people as youth is a good way to go,” she said.

For more information, see www.saltspringsailing.ca. 

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