Nearly all of us have (or should have) the experience of taking newbies out for a sail in the hope that our guest will see some of what makes us all so passionate about our sport. We bring our families, friends, kids, significant others, etc. out for a nice cruise, a laid-back race, or a fun, wet day on a dinghy – and invariably, a substantial portion of these potential sailors don’t get bitten by the bug. Some get scared by heeling, some are intimidated by the complicated lines and terminology, and some would rather be blasting around on a jet ski at 40 knots.
John Mooney from Virtual Sailing is trying something new in association with Altona Sailing Club and a small primary school in Melbourne, and we like his thinking. “The trial aims to explore novel methods and develop new protocols for teaching youngsters how to sail,” said John. Using their dinghy simulator, John says, makes dealing with their fears much easier. "It is already progressing well" reports Mooney, "consider that not one of the ten students had ever been on a sailboat before, only two could swim, and some were understandably very nervous to trying sailing – and at the end of the first session on the "VSail-Trainer" all could steer and handle the mainsheet. They were having so much fun that, they insisted on activating the heeling."
We don’t know how successful their program will be at the end of the day, but kudos to Mooney and his crew for coming up with new ways to get kids and newbies into the game.