Golden Gate Park

Teaching Kids to Sail

Teaching Kids To Sail – Proof Of Concept

Story contributed by Bruce Ettinger, Secretary, San Francisco Model Yacht Club.

After weeks of careful planning among the four members responsible for this event, the day, June 23, finally came.  Luckily, the weather was perfect with 8 mph westerly winds.

Dave Gormly had checked out three Club Victoria model yachts and deemed them shipshape –batteries were at the ready.  Ken Shapiro brought a table, ice, and drove the food and drinks to the Lakeside location. Dave Sands helped carry the Victorias to the spot and Bruce Ettinger took care of signage and bringing out two one-foot tether boats loaned by Brian Huppi (for the kids too young to sail Victorias).  And then Ed and Pat Schoenstein arrived with their three lovely grandchildren, the Hulmes, ages 9-15.

racing towards the finish

Emily and Addy tacking towards the finish line.

Everything went remarkably smoothly. We had notified all our members a week prior, we had asked Victoria and ODOM sailors specifically to volunteer as teachers and to spread the word and, with help from Mary Rose Cassa, we had placed notices on two neighborhood web sites.

From the location on the north shore just east of Heartbreak Harbor, these kids quickly learned the use of rudder to keep their boat on its easterly course during the run. Then, steering the boat to shore, they learned how the sails needed to be close hauled to manage the beat back. Of course, tacking was a challenge, but they quickly caught on. Next, they each took on the task of sailing to and around the buoy.

Next, all three learned what it takes to cross a start line at the right time – not so easy! Finally, all three competed in an exciting race up and down the lake.  With only a 20-minute teaching session, we had proved that kids can pick up the fundamentals of sailing and have fun doing it.

watching the start line as Bruce counts down to the start

All three kids concentrating on their boats as Bruce gives the starting countdown.

Here’s what Addy, a 15 year old wrote: “Thank you for such a great time sailing. I really enjoyed learning what it takes to navigate around the pond! At first I struggled to control the rudder, as I often confused my lefts and rights. But after you suggested I envision myself of the boat, controlling became much easier. When we arrived at the pond I expected to have very little control of the boats and to mostly watch as they floated around. When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of control we had over the boats. I had so much fun gaining confidence in my sailing skills and, in a very short amount of time, I was able to race around buoys and learn to tack. Thank you for such a positive experience. My siblings and I had a great time.”

Here’s what Emily, a 13 year old, had to say: “Thank you for teaching me to sail – I had so much fun! When I first started I thought it would have more parts to it, but the control was actually pretty easy and your advice helped. The hardest part for me was the turning of the ship. I found several times the boat going out too far and I thought it wouldn’t come back. Sometimes when it got too far I couldn’t tell if it was turning or not so I got frustrated. Some advice I could give anyone would be to stay patient because you might not get it the first time but if you keep trying and do your best to not get angry it can be really fun especially with all the giant fish! Thank you again and good luck!”

And here’s a note from the youngest, 9 year old Conrad: “Hi sailing buddy!!!! I thought the easiest part of sailing was opening the sails and gliding with the wind. I liked when me and Addy raced from a buoy to the red mark because it was exciting. Thank you for letting me learn to sail!!!!!”

Our next Sunday sailing for kids will be on July 21st.  The 11 a.m.-1 p.m. window is the perfect time for good wind conditions.

Bruce attaches Conrad's tether boat

Bruce attaching the tether line to Conrad’s boat.

Bruce explaining at Addy how the boat works

Bruce explaining to Addy the way Victoria’s controls work.

crossing the finish line

Addy’s boat heeling on a speedy tack, crosses the finish line.

grandpa Ed enjoying Emily's new skills

Ed observing Emily’s tacking skills.

keeping up with the boat on the run

Conrad keeping up with a boat on the run.






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