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Sailing School

 “At least it didn’t
snow,” said Robert Croghan, orchestrator
and driving force of the month-long Sailing
School and Steel Pan
Summer Camp. He was referring to last week’s diabolical weather, which
played such a large role in sending sailors down the pan — pun intended!

“The first week began great
with kids getting to grips with a strong breeze and flat offshore water, then it all went pear-shaped,” said Croghan. “Huge onshore swells, monsoons and then no
wind at all meant more pan lessons than originally planned.”

He went on to say that most of the
much-practiced pan players can now play three chords of
St Lucia’s
national anthem!

The camp began with 18 youngsters,
12 from Massade Boy’s Training Centre and half
a dozen paying customers.

“The kids first took a
swimming test, which they all passed. It was then on to water safety, rules, boat care and confidence on the water, both in and out of
the Optimist dinghies” said Croghan.

By the end of the first week all
participants were sailing—after a fashion—and ready to improve
their skills.

“We used a tether from the
lead boat until we were satisfied the kids were confident and in
control,” said Croghan. “Once we were
happy with their progress, we’d cast them off and the crew of two,
although still monitored, sailed on their own.”

Week two began with five of the Massade kids opting out of the program due to a desire to
participate in some, ahem, un-related sailing activities. So with 13 kids and
the elements colluding against him, Croghan and his
volunteers of Robin Eames, Steven Edwards and Oksana
began the second week of sailing and pan for beginners.

“The weather gave the kids a
first-hand experience of how the weather can change,” said Croghan. “The waves, when you’re in something
as small as an Optimist, don’t have to be very big to give trainees a
taste of how up and down sailing can be!”

Becalmed the next day, the focus
was, not surprisingly, on capsizing and righting techniques. Severe storms and
torrential rain came next, sending the kids back on land for some sailing
theory and more chords from our national anthem.

Thursday was race day—if the
weather allowed—which it did and a triangular course was duly put into
place.

Restricted to just two races it
was Isla and Clair first around with Mike and Shalando
second followed in third place by Zeina and Simon.

So, halfway through the summer
camp, the junior pan-playing sailors—course more or
less completed—were in for a surprise.

“Because of the terrible
weather, we felt obliged to give them an extra two weeks, no charge,”
said Croghan. No-one (not even the elements) is going
to rain on Croghan’s parade and get away with
it!

Monday afternoon saw Jabel and Grayling on the J24’s, crewed by the older
trainees for their fortnight of training.

“Without the involvement of
St Lucia Yacht Club’s (SLYC’s) commodore,
Mike Green, Duncan Ince (SLYC’s
manager) and Dr Michael Camps, none of this would have been possible,”
said Croghan, referring to the loan of the craft,
facilities and Camp’s training input.

“It’s all about
getting kids who’ve never had the opportunity to sail on the
water,” Croghan said. “Sailing now has 18
more young converts and that’s what it’s all about.”

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