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Conestoga Sailing Club introduces instructional program for younger children

At the Conestoga Sailing Club, Sophia Ruffolo and Tanis Alexander are the instructors for the new Wet Feet program [Damon Maclean]

Adhering to the adage that you’re never too young to start learning, the Conestoga Sailing Club has launched a new program for kids between the ages of six and eight that gives them the chance to develop their sea legs.

The Wet Feet program is new for the club this year, aimed at teaching the basics of sailing while instilling confidence in those who love the idea of being able to captain their own ship. The club started the program after getting requests from the community over the last few years to take kids under the age of nine. They realized they were missing the opportunity to get youngsters out on the water, an oversight now corrected.

“We’ve had questions in the past from a number of parents asking us if their child could sign up if they were younger than nine. And, in the past, we just haven’t been able to do that because we didn’t have a program with the children, and we weren’t really equipped from a training perspective of how to work with younger kids. So, we said no,” said Bruce Alexander, commodore of the sailing club.“We thought we’re really missing opportunity because we only have children for a short period of time to teach them the passion for sailing. And if they’re interested in going at a younger age (we would) at least provide them an experience where they see sailboats (and) understand how they flow. Really, a basic introduction to sailing to kind of go over the passion for sailing and inspire them to think about maybe learning how to sail when they get older.”

In addition to the basics of sailing, kids taking part will be able to take part in games, on land activities and in water drills that are part of the CANSail curriculum. Kids will get to participate in themed activities, including a pirate day, Hawaiian day, and exploring all the life at sea has to offer.

Starting June 29, the club will run four sessions of the program over a six-week period, with classes running Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The first two sessions – June 29 to July 10 and July 13 to July 24 – will be two-week programs. The last two sessions will be a more condensed version of the program running one week each from July 27 to 31 and August 3 to August 7.

Because of COVID-19, some changes had to be implemented to maintain the safety and wellbeing of all kids and staff involved. Alexander says groups will be limited to 10 – including instructors – keeping classes small but adhering to provincial guidelines.

“We had been working on preparing for this, planning for it, doing a lot of instructional design, before COVID-19 hit. We felt that, given the fact that we are now able to operate as a day camp, we will follow the provincial guidelines that we’ve been working with Ontario sailing, that are very strict. Yet we can still run a camp for families in a safe way where their kids can explore sailing,” he explained.

Kids who take part must be able to swim 50 metres wearing a personal flotation device, tread water and provide their own lifejacket.

More information on the program can be found online.

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