Thursday, 27 February 2020


Experienced skippers passing on skills to young sailors

By Jack Biddle

When it comes to competitive yachting, history has shown that not many countries do it better than New Zealand. Regardless of the type or size of boat, if it’s got a sail and there is a competition on somewhere in the world, there is bound to be a Kiwi crew or individual on board. More often than not, that crew is a hot favourite for a top finish too.  

One of the main reasons Kiwis punch well above their weight in sailing, is because of the youth sailing programmes in place all around the country. These programmes are initially designed to teach the basics of sailing in a non-competitive environment. 

Once those early steps have been mastered and a desire to continue instilled, the next move is to learn more about the finer arts of the sport and - for many of our young sailors - to move into competitive sailing. An ideal way for young sailors to learn more about racing is an opportunity to rub shoulders with sailors who are well experienced and still active in racing larger boats.     

Mercury Bay Boating Club's youth sailing coaches have over the last few months been reaching out to the club's keel boat members, asking them to take some of their Learn to Sail Level 2 graduates out racing with them in the club's Polar Bear series that is at the moment being sailed.

“The idea is that those kids who have become quite good dinghy sailors, can learn more about the finer points of racing from our experienced veteran members," says Jonathan Kline, one of the club's youth sailing coaches. "Nothing inspires a child more than having a great mentor and coach. These keel boat skippers have a huge amount of racing knowledge - including the art of sail trimming, tactics, timing and reading the wind conditions, which can be tough especially in our very challenging Bay. Through this interaction, we believe our younger sailors will become more committed club members and hopefully continue to evolve and grow with the club.” 

The keel boat members weren't overly concerned about having to potentially sacrifice race points or placings by having learn-to-sail graduates on board. "Our experienced skippers are getting huge amounts of satisfaction by passing on their skills and knowledge to these kids and watching them learn and grow in confidence," Jonathan says.

So far, the skippers who have offered to take yound sailors on board include Mercury Bay Boating Club commodore, Chris Johnston on noReMorse, Tim Johnston on Twentysomething, Philip Hart on Puff, Al Joslin on Solveig, Carl Reinsfield on Pterodactyl, Mike Phear on Strictly Business and Max Ross on Straight Shooter.

Troy Aickin, Gabriel Asquith, Tinca Samson and Cole Hardy are the lucky youth sailors who have to date been given the opportunity to learn the finer points of sailing under race conditions.

“Grassroots community sailing programmes have made New Zealand a strong and successful sailing nation," says Jonathan. "It’s a win-win for everyone and it’s making local clubs like ours stronger and more united. Plus, who knows, we may have a future world or Olympic champion that we can all be proud of. We are planting seeds and we will see what grows."

In another positive move for the Mercury Bay Boating Club, Sam McDonald, one of the club's Learn to Sail Level 2 graduates, will be attending a Yachting New Zealand "Buddy Learn to Sail" coaching course in August. The course is open for young sailors over the age of 14. Students who participate in the course not only learn about safety and equipment management, but also about how to teach, how to adjust the day’s schedule based on weather and how to make sailing fun. The students not only help with local youth sailing programmes, they also gain valuable life skills and learn to become mentors and instructors. 

“We are so pleased to have Sam kick off as our first junior sailor ‘Buddy Learn to Sail’ coach and we hope to work with our community to sponsor other kids to attend these courses in the future,” says Jonathan. “It’s a great way for young sailors to give back to their clubs and to help their clubs' volunteer junior sailing coaches while improving on their own sailing skills at the same time.”


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