Multi-activity Weeks for youth

The Hebe Haven Yacht Club is committed to youth sail training with an impressive programme of courses for beginners, improvers and even instructors. Last year, for example, some 3,000 young (and not so young) sailors benefitted from the Club’s extended sailing schemes – an impressive number by anyone’s standards, anywhere in the world.

The Club’s Adventure Watersports Weeks are run during school holidays and are specifically for young people between the ages of six and 14 years. They are proving very popular and draw youngsters from all backgrounds. At a cost of HK$3,000 for members (HK$4,000 for non-members), the ‘camps’ provide a much-needed outdoor education for Hong Kong’s younger generation which, in a crowded city environment, has limited opportunity to enjoy a healthy, outdoor lifestyle, either on land or on water.

The typical ‘Week’ is a full five days, with each day beginning at 1000 and ending at 1700. No time for lazing around, it’s go, go, go from Monday to Friday. And when not sailing Optimists, Picos and Lasers, there are support activities such as kayaking, beach games, basketball and even ‘expeditions’ to the outer islands around Sai Kung.

This year, the Club had 17 Multi-activity Weeks scheduled, beginning on the 8th of February. Sadly, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the first three Weeks had to be cancelled. But, on the 29th of March, it was back on schedule with the beginning of Week 4 and, on the 5th of April, Week 5.

Rob Allen, manager of the Club’s Sailing Centre, says Week 4 attracted 48 youngsters, and Week 5, 44. He points out that, actually, the restrictions on travel have seen more people interested in the courses. “Kids have come back for their second and third years. It has been very encouraging and a great sign that all our hard work is paying off.

“The Sailing Centre puts it all together and, through each Multi-activity Week, some 34 staff are involved,” says Rob. “It’s great for the Club as it generates new members and brings in parents.” It also contributes to the Club’s financial well-being and puts it in a good light with the Government. “Raising the level of sailing is good for the Club and our formidable squad of youth sailors – the Hebe Dragons,” Rob concluded.

The syllabus, although complex, covers everything anyone would need to know about learning to sail. For example, there is ‘Optimist 1 Introduction’ which focuses on the basic skills of steering, balance and sailing. It is aimed at 7-year-olds and lasts for 100 hours. How important to start from the beginning, and how important to receive proper instruction!

Next there’s ‘Optimist 2 Helm’ which is about handling an Optimist single-handed in light winds on all points of sail. Then comes ‘Optimist 3 Skipper’ which teaches how to launch and recover an Optimist dinghy safely without assistance. It also introduces the beginner to sail in medium winds around a basic triangle course. How many parents would be able to provide this sort of sailing instruction to their children? Not many, and that’s where the Hebe Haven Yacht Club’s dedicated sailing instructors have stepped in, with very encouraging and positive results.

The courses go on to include an ‘Introduction to Pico Sailing’ aimed at 10-year-olds, and then to much more advanced HKSF courses, racing in RS Quest dinghies, and even training for instructors.

The Sailing Centre’s efforts proved themselves recently when, out of the 10 teams competing in the Match Racing Nationals, four were youth. Rob, who has been a strong presence at the Hebe Haven Yacht Club for a total of 14 years, says the sail training schemes are about developing “our own talent. The Club’s plan is to take the Hebe Dragons to more international events. In 2019, for example, Alfie Okoth took six sailors to compete in Canada. With our focus on sail training, we are investing in Hong Kong’s sailing future at a national level.”

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