Junior Sailing Optimist Stage 1 Course

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am


The Aberdeen Boat Club runs sailing courses for children aged seven and up every school holiday. My nine-year-old, Joshua, tried day one of the youngest novice course, which is spread over five half-days. The Sea Lion Stage 1 Optimist Course is for seven- to 11-year-olds.

Although a lot of information is available on the website, my lad didn't know exactly what to expect. And although he is a confident swimmer - a pre-requisite for joining - I could tell from the questions he asked that he was a bit nervous.

All seven children and their parents (including me) were soon put at ease. The programme started at the main clubhouse with a talk by dinghy sailing manager Kevin Lewis, who introduced himself and two instructors, two of whom would be present at all times. His authoritative but fun approach continued after a short ferry hop to the club's facility on Middle Island, where the girls and boys got a safety briefing that mixed important things to remember with plenty of humour.

Soon children were climbing into two boats. Optimist is the name of a small flat-hulled boat category often used to teach basic sailing. With life jackets, helmets and sunscreen on, they paddled to get comfortable in the boat and on the water.

After a talk on capsizing with and without a sail up, it was time to get wet; children worked as teams and in pairs to overturn and then recover vessels from capsizing. Because it's the kids' worst fear, it was good to see this issue addressed so early.

The last couple of hours were spent with children learning about and using the rudder to steer while with an instructor. The day ended with instructed running and static jumps off the pier into the sea, some with spins and twists, and swims ashore - all instilling yet more confidence.

Days two to five added on to this foundation, with the children finally certified for safety on the water, boat balance, sail use, steering and how to turn the boat upright. More courses start on August 6 and 20, with an autumn series starting on October 22.

Verdict: An absorbing, instructive and good-natured introduction to sailing for juniors in verdant surrounds.

Aberdeen Boat Club, 20 Shum Wan Road, Aberdeen; tel: 2552 8182; more information at www.abclubhk.com