Skippers of the future set sail on harbour

Hamish O'Malley-King goes for an unscheduled dip after capsizing his Optimist while participating in the Break-Away sailing programme at the Otago Yacht Club yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Hamish O'Malley-King goes for an unscheduled dip after capsizing his Optimist while participating in the Break-Away sailing programme at the Otago Yacht Club yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.

Hamish O'Malley-King could, just possibly, be the next Russell Coutts.

And, if he is, his sailing career is off to a memorable start.

The 11-year-old Dunedin boy took an unexpected swim in Otago Harbour yesterday, because of a southerly change and an Optimist yacht which was not willing to co-operate with him.

Hamish was one of 18 pupils taking part in the week-long Break-Away sailing programme at the Otago Yacht Club yesterday.

However, emerging from the water to dry off, Hamish said through chattering teeth he was already planning his sailing career.

''It was actually really fun and I didn't expect it at all.

''When I capsized, the water was really cold. I tried to do everything the instructor said, and it wasn't that easy.''

Yachting New Zealand regional support officer Graeme Wall said the programme was a chance to introduce the next generation of sailors to the water and some basic sailing and team-building skills.

''Water can be a wee bit frightening for a lot of kids, but what we are trying to do here is show them it's all manageable,'' he said.

It was hoped some would continue in the sport and perhaps eventually even follow in the wake of America's Cup winner Russell Coutts, who learned to sail on Otago Harbour.

''Who knows? There could be other budding America's Cup skippers out there,'' he said.

Yesterday's class was the start of a week-long course repeated four times over the summer, catering for 60 pupils in total, as part of the Break-Away School Holiday Programme.

The course, which was in its second year, was funded by the Ministry of Social Development, co-ordinated by the Water Safety Council and run by the Otago Yachting Association, with help from the city's yacht clubs, Mr Wall said.chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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