Set sail for a life on the ocean wave

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 April, 2011, 12:00am

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With summer approaching, anyone seeking a new activity for their children may like to consider dinghy sailing. Being almost surrounded by water, Hong Kong is an ideal location in which to learn.

'Sailing encourages young people to be self-reliant and helps them mature. It is an adventurous, outdoor sport that can benefit them both physically and mentally,' says Kelvin Lewis, dinghy sailing manager at Aberdeen Boat Club (www.abclubhk.com).

'As it also boosts a child's water confidence, it is a significant safety plus for their future.

'Aberdeen Boat Club, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and Hebe Haven Yacht Club offer activities with particular emphasis and expertise on youth sailing. These courses are all open to non-members.'

Most beginner courses use the Optimist dinghy. The boat is specifically designed as a training vessel for children up to the age of 15.

'For the very young, the only essential requirement is that they can swim. To progress and become skilled sailors, balance, agility and overall enthusiasm are important. They should enjoy their sport and want to keep sailing,' Lewis adds.

The Aberdeen Boat Club conducts a junior sailing programme that offers a beginner's course for children aged seven to 11. The course focuses on building confidence in the water and in a dinghy, and includes a variety of games designed to build interest and enthusiasm for the sport. Specific skills taught include boat balancing, basic boat controls and how to recover when your boat capsizes.

The course is run over five half-days and costs HK$800 for members and HK$1,064 for non-members. The overall sailing programme comprises four courses that enable participants to develop the skills needed to compete in races. These courses are also run over five half-days at the same costs. Students who show potential may be invited to join the club's Optimist Racing team.

'Being able to swim is a must; students are also required to wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid at all times on the water. Appropriate clothing, adequate water and sun block are also vital. These aspects are covered as part of the learn to sail programme,' Lewis says.

Children may also learn the basics at the Chong Hing Water Sports Centre in Sai Kung and the Tai Mei Tuk Water Centre in Tai Po, run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (www.lcsd.gov.hk). The junior training programme is open to children aged between seven and 14.

The beginners' introduction to sailing training is held over two full days. The course teaches participants basic handling techniques, essential background knowledge and the standard sailing safety code. The cost is HK$70 and all participants must be able to swim 50 metres fully clothed.