The Pitch for Sailing Summer Camp

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This summer tens of thousands of children will take their first sail, with a friend or alone in their own little boat. No adults. Just a coach, or a counselor, and maybe their assistants-a couple of local teens. They will sail away from the WiFi connection, the YouTube videos, and the remote control. Away from the countless distractions along the path to becoming an adult.

Each day the pattern repeats, rig the boat, set out, de-rig. Each sail a little takes them further than the one before.

So You Need Convincing?

Perhaps you are on the fence this summer. The drive is too far, the cost too high, or the child says, It doesnt sound like much fun. There are a million reasons to encourage your child (or grandchild) to sail this summer. Here are a few that I like.

  1. You get to sail your own boat. Independence. To take responsibility for ones actions one has to first recognize them as your own. Theres no question who is trimming the sails or steering your boat. Its a twist on the Spiderman motto: with great freedom comes great responsibility.
  2. You get to be out on the water. Immersion in nature. A number of studies have demonstrated how water lifts spirits, and even improves mental and physical health. Mastering a small boat heightens an awareness of the forces of nature, and nourishes the notion that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
  3. You will make new friends. Connectedness with other people. In a two-person dinghy, the sailing partner is more than just a teammate. Over time, the feedback loop between trimmer and helmsman creates its own nervous system, a sensory-motor pathway in which two people can move as one.
  4. You will learn something new. This is a tough sell, especially in summer. But most kids recognize that mastering a new skill-defeating the next boss, as they say-produces its own special thrill.
  5. You will have fun. This is almost guaranteed, although the enjoyment factor rests on how capably the staff at the camp or sailing school fosters an environment of learning and growth. At this level, failure should be a friend-not something to avoid or be feared, but something to be accepted as part of the game. Where’s the game-or the fun-if there’s no risk?

Apart from choosing the right fit for our kid, a parent can’t exert much control over what comes next (another possible selling point). A lot can depend on the weather. The experience of the kid who spends the week hunting for wind is quite different from that of one who enjoys five days of brisk and wet reaches. In the ideal world, a squall will cause minor mayhem on the last day-a capsizes, mad bailing, a lost baseball cap-a bit of adventure to spice up the finale.

Sailing Gear for Kids

If youre looking for kids sailing gear this summer, weve tested a wide range of equipment designed especially for kids: Testing a Deckvest Made for Children (see PS July 2017), Sailing Gear for Kids (PS July 2016), Kids Life Jackets for Active Sailors, (PS June 2013), Practical Sailor Reviews Seven Performance Sailing Dinghies (PS August 2011), Practical Sailor Tests a Ruggedly Built Safety Harness and Tether (PS September 2009), Making the Best Toddler Life Jacket with Harness, (PS June 2007), and Safety Gear for Kids, (PS July 2006), Infant Toddler PFDs, PS October 2006).

Summer Camp Recommendations

If you have a sailing camp to recommend or one that left you with a lasting impression, let us know by leaving a comment or emailing us a practicalsailor@belvoir.com.

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