Raising Sails, And Skills: Dartmouth Instructors Help Kids Get Comfortable on Water

Sunday, August 02, 2015
Enfield — Children who attend sailing camp might start off as novices, but by the time it ends, they are sailors.

Instructors at the camp, run by the Dartmouth Sailing Facility on Lake Mascoma, make sure of it.

“By the end of the week they can usually sail the boat to where they want and end up back at the dock safely,” said John Brady, manager of the sailing facility and assistant director of physical education at Dartmouth College.

Each camp session, for children ages 8-14 whose parents are members of the sailing facility, runs Monday-Thursday, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. A fair number of campers return for multiple weeks. Each session has a maximum of eight children.

“There are some who come here with absolutely no sailing experience at all,” said Dylan Hooper Goetinck, of Norwich, who has been an instructor at the camp the past two summers and is a rising sophomore at Clarkson University.

But that doesn’t stop the campers from jumping into sailing right away.

“We try to start with the basics, but if there’s wind, we put them on the water,” said third-year instructor Lucy Kammer Woolsey, of Norwich, who teaches geography at Dartmouth.

The camp covers all aspects of sailing. The skills campers learn include setting up the boat, bringing it out of the water, tying knots and safety techniques, such as what to do if a boat capsizes.

“It’s a pretty substantial skill set that they need,” Brady said. “I think it’s the most complicated sport in the world.”

They learn how to “feel” the boat, and to understand how to get the vessel to respond to different wind conditions.

“We think of people in learning as seers, feelers, thinkers and doers,” Brady said. “But to be successful in sailing, you need to be able to learn through multiple avenues.”

The majority of campers are between 10 and 12. And while the kids are fun to work with, there are also challenging aspects of the job, Hooper Goetinck said. For example, some of the young sailors can get panicky when the wind on the lake kicks up.

“Keep them calm and to get them to listen to us so we can get them to do what they need to do,” can be a challenge, Hooper Goetinck said.

The camp goes on, rain or shine.

“The only time we won’t go out on the water is if there’s thunder or extremely high winds,” Hooper Goetinck said.

In addition to the sailing camp, lessons are offered for adults and Kammer Woolsey also teaches a women’s-only course. After camp concludes, the instructors encourage all students to return on Tuesday night for informal sailboat racing.

“We believe safety is the first consideration and having fun is the second,” Brady said. “As long as you keep them safe, as long as they’re having fun, they learn to sail.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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