What does sailing offer the youth?

It is a great question, and this message from Dave Hudson provides the best explanation:

Sailing is a truly extraordinary sport.  Beyond the obvious physical and mental challenges, sailing teaches us a wide range of life lessons. For a start, whether our sailing is recreational or competitive, we don’t do it on a static field, court or course like most ball sports, or even a static track like mountain biking or downhill skiing.  The field we play on moves, sometimes imperceptibly, often unpredictably, and occasionally violently, under the influence of tide, current and wind. The main source of the power we draw from, using our physical capability and technical skills, is the invisible, turbulent, three-dimensional movement of the air around us. 

What a wonderful metaphor for life and the world we all have to learn to live in!

As sailors, we learn very quickly to deal with the curved balls that the wind and sea throw at us.  We learn to be sensitive to the many subtle signals that give us clues as to what the water that supports us and the wind that drives us are likely to to do next.  We learn how to learn, and we discover how quickly the sea punishes us when we are slow to learn. We learn the value of learning from others, and at the same time we experience the excitement of innovating, of embracing radical new thinking and exciting new technologies. We learn the importance of dealing meticulously with detail, and we quickly learn the danger of losing sight of the big picture.  

We learn how to move quickly and easily from thinking about the past: which side of the course was favoured on the downwind leg last round – to the present: how do I best get over the wave two meters in front of my bow – to the future: should I position myself for a stand-on or a gybe at the next weather mark.

Perhaps most importantly, we learn that the more we know, the better we understand how much more there is that we don’t yet know.

There may well be other sports that are as valuable in preparing young people to deal with life’s challenges, but I have difficulty thinking of one.

The Optimist has played a remarkable role in introducing countless youngsters around the world to the sport of sailing.  What a great contribution to enriching the lives of every one of them. 

Dave Hudson
Lifelong sailer