Gavin Muller gave a great insight in his post yesterday about why kids should learn to sail their own boat. I completely agree with him but would like to add to it the other lessons it teaches – grit, humility and self-reliance.
I am forever awed by the baby duck in the back of the race that comes across the finish line far after the rest of the fleet. They are usually dripping wet, cheeks streaked with silent tears and fingers fumbling with the mainsheet and tiller. They are only 8 or 9 but have assumed a huge responsibility when they left shore alone and they know it. But it’s when I see that set jaw and determined gaze that it always gets me.
These are the baby ducks that struggle to make it back to the starting line in time to do it all again – another hour long race alone in their boat. When I see them go past the second and third time is when I realize that I have just met a freshly minted sailor and a kid that won’t be broken on or off the water.
No kid starts at the front of the fleet and many may never get there but it’s their time in the back of the fleet that makes them a sailor – the rest is just icing.
Is there a single greater thing you can teach an 8, 9, or 10-year old than to sail solo? Name me another activity that teaches geometry, mechanics, and physics while showing a small child that the mind always matters more than brute strength, and that size and gender are irrelevant to success. A sport where the playing field of wind and water mutates with every race to remind them that nature is ever-dynamic – yet enforces rules of right-of-way, sportsmanship, and marine safety. Lessons that train them to assemble complex sails and rigging, wash their own clothes, and not panic when capsizing. Lessons that teach them to trust their judgment, take responsibility for their decisions and not to blame anyone/anything else other than themselves. A lifestyle that begins with a love for the water, and ends with a wizard-like ability to read its secret language of waves, clouds, currents and the predictable movement of a boat. Sailing is a way of seeing the world without a digital screen.
Wesley Hsu – Thailand