Young sailors shrug off cold dunkings

Novice sailors at the Break-Away Summer Sailing programme (from left) Georgia Pope (12), Hanna Ingram (12) and Madison Sutherland (11) provide moral support to Jesse Hanan (9), Thomas Woodfield (13), Kallan Buchanan (10) and Hayden Koenen (11) as they finish a long paddle to the Otago Yacht Club yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.Youngsters have an uncanny ability to jump, or fall, into bitterly cold water and enjoy the experience.

It's an aptitude the Break-Away Summer Sailing programme has had to take advantage of during its four-week course for 11 to 17-year-olds this summer, because the weather during the past month has been less than tropical.

Yachting New Zealand regional support officer and programme co-ordinator Graeme Wall said despite the abysmal weather, 68 young people learned to sail.

He said the number of applicants for the course continued to grow each year.

''It's been the worst weather we've had for the last few summers - this one's been the most challenging.

''It's not about the rain. It's about wind conditions.

''We've had a lot of southerly fronts which are cold and gusty, which makes learning to sail quite difficult.

''Some kids have really latched on though, despite the conditions.''

While the weather was again unsuitable for sailing yesterday, Mr Wall said it failed to keep the novices anchored.

Rather, they had a race in row-boats from the Harbour Basin to the Otago Yacht Club, which again gave them an opportunity to experience the wind in their hair and the spray of sea water on their faces.

He said the course was not just about getting more young people out on yachts in Otago Harbour, it was about teaching young people to be safe, confident and competent in the water.

Pupils who attended the programme last year had gone on to sail fibreglass Optimist-class yachts in races around the country, which showed the programme was successful. The programme finishes today.

-john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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