I recently attended a fundraiser at the Onerahi Yacht Club. The event was held to raise money for Michael Cate, a young sailor of promise, who had qualified for an international competition. These competitions cost money, as do racing skiffs, and travel for coaches and support teams. Mike Sanderson, winner of the 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award and presently captaining Sayonara in the Volvo Ocean Race, was the keynote speaker. He donated his time to help this young racer because that is what the Onerahi racing community had done for him early in his sailing career.
The young sailor's father told the crowd that he himself did not sail, didn't even know how to, so he was very appreciative of their special skills and support of the young man's dreams.
It struck me that the cruising community has few such organizations to further our sport, if we can call it that, or nurture along young persons of talent and with interest. So, does it come down to accidental outcome- if your parents do not cruise under sail, neither will you?
I looked out over the river to see several dozen boats swinging idly on moorings. Up the river in Whangarei there sits several hundred more boats. The only distance most travel is up and down on the tide. What are the numbers - Bay of Islands, Gulf Harbor, Auckland, Picton, Nelson?
I thought, "What a waste of precious resource when the children of our nation are wandering the streets with nothing to do, so little guidance, so few dreams. And how easy would it be for us to organize a flotilla of Big Brothers and Sisters to mentor these children along in an endeavor that is certain to develop them physically, mentally, and spiritually?"
The purpose would not be to race, although even for a cruiser the definition of a race is another sail on the horizon. The purpose would be simply to get young people out onto the water, away from the cacophony of the cities, and distractions of land - to follow a steady compass course to find their way instead of their wayward peers in all the wrong directions - to see the elegant beauty of a sail well set, to learn how the moon effects the tide, the wind the waves, and the sea all those who sail upon her.
It might just be a casual Saturday morning on an individual basis, or a team of well organized mentors with a regular schedule. It could be set up through local schools, libraries, maraes, or a host of civic institutions.
Of course, there would have to be some vetting and serious safety protocols. But by preparing for the safety of your new crew you may find you have upgraded your own. In teaching them the fundamentals you will reiterate them for yourself. And in their enthusiastic faces you just might find your faded, but not forgotten, passion for the sea. And who knows, a few years down the line, when you're a little short handed for that run up to Fiji, you'll know just what strong, experienced, young adult to call.
If you are a part of, or know of an already existing program, please send in the details and we will try to get the word out.
- Fairfax Media
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