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Come sail away, but with proper form and technique

Get Out on the Water offers a chance to try sailing or paddling with Collingwood's coaches

The summer season inspires many to avail themselves of the water’s perks with a paddle and a sail.

In Collingwood, the town-run sailing school encourages people to float the idea of watersports for a summer pastime. 

Every year, the Town of Collingwood teams up with Get Out on the Water, a provincial campaign to encourage community members to try their hand at sailing and rowing.

The free event - held Canada Day weekend, included coaches from the Collingwood Sailing School taking eager participants out on Club 420 boats for a 20-minute trial run. Each participant was paired with a staff member and taught to help tack and jib their sailboat to steer them around the harbour. On this particular day the wind was extra strong, so heading out into the harbour meant getting more than a little bit wet.

The first to test their luck on the water was 10-year-old twins Jayden and Jessica Ng. The Ng’s were in town for the long weekend, and Jenny Ng was hoping her kids would enjoy it so she could sign them up for one of the sailing camps offered later in the summer.

Neither Jayden or Jessica had ever sailed before, and although they came back drenched in water, their smiles said it all.

“That was really, really fun,” said Jessica.

“We got splashed!” Jayden added.

The sailing school offers two options over the course of the summer. A one-week camp runs full days from Monday to Friday for students aged eight and over, and evening lessons geared more towards adults run on Wednesday and Thursday nights each month. Both courses are taught by fully certified Sail Canada instructors and follow the CANSail curriculum.

Michelle Findlay, the manager of community recreation for the town, said she has total confidence in her coaching staff this summer.

The four main staff grew up sailing together and recently graduated from Collingwood Collegiate Institute. They attended the camp when they were younger, working their way through the levels every summer. As coaches, they also play a big part in keeping the harbour safe.

Findlay said they design the camp so that new students will hopefully obtain a level one sailing certificate by the end of each week. They also have some kids who register for the entire summer.

“The ones who are really passionate about sailing and are working on their third and fourth levels will be with us for multiple weeks,” said Findlay.

Findlay inherited the sailing school four years ago when it was on the brink of folding. The previous director founded the school and ran it for many years, and once he got older the yacht club took it under its wing. But, as a volunteer-run organization, it became difficult for the club to find the time and resources needed for the school to thrive.

“[The yacht club] approached the town saying this wonderful program is going to die if [the town] doesn’t take it on. So we took it on,” said Findlay.

As someone who previously knew nothing about sailing, Findlay tested for her Level 1 the first summer.

“I was right in the boat with the kids, learning too,” she said.

Findlay still enjoys heading out on the water, but only when one of her staff members take her out.

Stevenson Hillock, one of the coaches in charge of taking participants out on the water during Sunday’s event, thinks the try-days are a great idea.

“Sailing is a dying sport. I’ve been doing it my whole life and I would hate to see it go,” said Hillock.

He is happy to introduce others to the sport in hopes of getting them hooked as well.

Get Out on the Water is an Ontario-wide initiative to introduce people to water sports in a fun and safe way. The free event is offered at local sailing and rowing clubs across the province; the majority of the clubs are part of provincial sport organizations including Ontario Sailing and ROWONTARIO.

If you missed the opportunity to test your sailing skills, the Collingwood Sailing School will hold a similar event during Side Launch Days on August 10 and 11.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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