Youth Sailing Camp

The idea of sailing camps for youngsters at Hebe Haven Yacht Club goes back almost 20 years when sailing manager, Rob Allen, came up with a programme, formalized in 2004, which attracted between 20 and 25 young sailors. Held annually from then on, the camps proved popular and grew rapidly in size.

Numbers of participants reached as high as 120 and their ages extended from six to 15. But, as Allen points out, the club did not have the instructors and support staff to handle the variety of courses on offer and today participation has been stabilized at around 80 young sailors per camp.

This 30% cut has also allowed for improvements to the courses provided by the club’s Sailing Centre, and more individual attention where needed.

The camps encompass more than sailing and take in paddle boarding, kayaking, beach games and even basketball – hence the term ‘multi activity week’. This can mean “as many as 30 kids on shore engaged in physical activities that go towards promoting a healthy outdoor lifestyle and, as you would expect, contribute to character building.” Snorkeling is also included in the camp itinerary and is conducted from the club’s catamaran, Hebe One, in Rocky Harbour. “All these activities go towards feeding the principles of a summer camp,” says Allen.

“The Sailing Centre has between 20 and 25 instructors / assistant instructors providing weekly assistance, all qualified either through us – some 80% – or the Hong Kong Sailing Federation. I’m very proud of our achievements in both the competitive and recreational aspects of what we do and praise must also go to club staff, Nigel Slattery and Lily Mae Reid. They make sure it all happens,” says Allen. “Not forgetting the huge support from our Rear Commodores, Harvey Jessop and Bridget Chan."

There are currently nine weeks of summer camps, with more than 720 young sailors taking part.

Incidentally, Sailability, which is home-based in the club and provides instruction and support for disabled sailors, “has its own programmes running through the week alongside ours,” says Allen.

“Of the 80 kids that join the weekly camps, some 30% are members and 70% who are non-members. I would say, 20 to 30 of them come back and join the club as cadet members. This is very encouraging not only for us, but also for sailing in Hong Kong. Sailability’s participation figure can be between 50 and 60 sailors.”

Dinghies used during the weekly camps include Optimists, Lasers, Quests and Pico’s. As an aside, Allen says the club now has 82 dinghies and six J/80s, all used regularly. For back-up and support, there are 11 safety boats and the multi-purpose, 45-foot catamaran, Hebe One.

Over the past two decades, the club has sensibly invested money in the Sailing Centre as it represents the future of the club’s core interest – sailing. It has paid off.

The centre, under the strength and guidance of Rob Allen, now employs nine full-time staff and an amazing 50 part-timers. A crack team of youngsters – the Hebe Dragons – does the club proud at national and international dinghy racing events. Head Race Coach Alfred Okoth recently took a team of six Hebe Dragon sailors to compete in the UK Laser Nationals at Hayling Island on the south coast of England. One of the sailors, 14-year-old Peter Jessop, scored an impressive 5th place out of a field of 48.

At the time of writing, Okoth and eight Hebe Dragons were heading off to Singapore, despite quarantine requirements on their return, to take part in two regattas and a sailing camp.

The Covid restrictions over the past two and a half years have affected dinghy sailing and the summer camps. The Hebe Dragons have lost more than 30% of their members but, on a positive note, a lot more is being done to attract new recruits. “This has spurred the Sailing Centre into action and that’s why our Sailing for Schools and school holiday camps are so important. We are already seeing results,” says Allen. “The catchment area is all Hong Kong. We’ve even had a group of 150 students from Discovery Bay!”

The Sailing Centre must be doing something right!

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