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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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Old 05-19-2006
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6 Year Olds and Sailing Lesson

Hi

I have a question regarding allowing non-swimming 6 year olds to take sailing lessons. My children's grandparents (mother's side) are avid sailors and have decidied to sign my children up for sailing lessons this summer. I am not a sailor and don't know much about the sport.

I am concerned that allowing children who have basically zero swimming or treading water ability (they will literally sink like rocks without a life jacket) anywhere around a sailboat by themselves seems like a really bad idea. From looking at the website where they are taking lessons http://www.rvyc.bc.ca/index.php?cont...ng_Program.php there doesn't seem to be any swimming requirements. I find this really surprising.

However their mother and the sailing grandparents don't seem to agree with my concerns at all. Am I being irrational and are sailing lessons for non-swimmers children acceptable?

Thank you very much for your advice.
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Old 05-19-2006
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Our son took an Optimist sailing class last summer when he was eight years old. I believe eight was the earliest age allowed. We also believe that there was an expectation or requirement that he could swim unassisted for 50 yards, which he was capable of doing.

Here's a link to the sailing club where he took the class. If you look at the registration materials for the youth classes, the consent form notes the swimming requirment for the adult signing the document, but it doesn't necessarily note the requirement for the student...

http://www.willamettesailingclub.com/wss/index.html

My son enjoyed the class, but I think eight was the right age for him to take the course. Also, we made a big deal of him taking swimming classes before it and "passing the requirement for swimming" in the pool before he took the sailing class.

Jim H
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Old 05-19-2006
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My 10 year old grand daughter has taken two years of classes in prams and loves it.Wish we would have started her earlier. Every child has different interests and timing.
Look at the picture on Victoria's website. Those are life jackets on every kid and the law usually requires children to wear them whether sailing or power. My grand daughter knows that if we are on a boat, power or sail, that she wears a life jacket. Get your child comfortable with the water and don't let the fear of the parents get in their way. Teach respect of the water and never fear.


All that being said, I would invest in a good, COMFORTABLE, life jacket. Just as with adults, if it is not comfortable they will not want to wear it.Some of those jackets in the picture are very uncomftable looking.
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Old 05-19-2006
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Thanks for the replies

They are currently comfortable in the water while wearing life jackets in pools and have been on boats many times. However I remember when going a camp as a child (probably around 8 years old), to even be allowed near the boats you were required to pass to swimming test.

I find it really surprising that sailing clubs will teach children who can't pass a swimming test how to sail.
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Old 05-19-2006
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It would be a given that the students will be wearing PFDs during the lessons so I can see that swimming capability not necessarily be required. Of course a comfort level in the water will be very helpful but your children will not sink like stones since they will be wearing PFDs.
Our son grew up sailing, learning to sail in an opti-style boat starting around age 6 or 7. He has never taken to swimming (but he can stay afloat for a bit). Today at 24 he is an avid racer, already a boat owner and sails recreationally and competitively about 4 days/week on average. He wears his PFD pretty religiously still (a good Mustang inflatable collar) but the lack of true swimming capability has not held him back. If your children are interested, I can only say go for it!!
Ditto the advice on a quality, comfortable PFD. Gone, thankfully, are the days of the Kapok filled mattresses we had to wear as kids!
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Old 05-20-2006
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It is probably a legal requirement for all children to be wearing PFDs, so the fact that they can't swim isn't a huge issue. The children will have a fair amount of supervision, and the adults should be more than capable of plucking any that fall in the water out with relative ease.

Most modern PFDs are pretty comfortable, and if your children can be trusted to wear one, and not take it off, then I don't really see a problem with them learning to sail before they can swim. Some children won't, for whatever reason, wear a PFD all the time and they should probably learn to swim before learning to sail.

Also, you have to remember in Canada (based on the website url), the water temperatures may be quite cold compared to the air temperatures, and even if a child could swim, the shock of entering the cold water suddenly might make it difficult or impossible for them to do so properly. Wearing a PFD is really the only option—regardless of the child's ability to swim or not.
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Old 05-20-2006
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Why not sign up the children for swimming lessons?
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Old 05-20-2006
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Minimum age for our yacht club for kids lessons is 5, they use Optimists and Fleas and are carefully supervised by two crews in zodiacs.

PFD's are an absolute requirement, though some of the younger kids use these really cool dinghy suits that are basically a short sleeved wetsuit with the PFD inbuilt into the chest and back. They seem to work great, cannot be taken off easily and are one less thing that can be lost or left behind.

We plan to start our son in his sailing program at the earliest age possible, he can already swim at the age of 6months and continuing swimming lessons and followed by water survival lessons are definately on the agenda.
Especially if he ever wants to set foot in a canoe or kayak (A far more dangerous vessel then even a small sailboat)

Sasha
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Old 05-20-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chompy
Why not sign up the children for swimming lessons?
My experience is that some kids just don't want to learn to swim...but still may be interested in learning to sail.
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Old 05-21-2006
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It has been my experience as a parent that a swimming test is required before sailing lessons begin. I have two children sailing Optimist boats and every year they must swim 50 ft off the dock, retrieve their lifejacket, put it on and swim back. It is state law here in NY that all children under the age of 14 wear a PFD when on a boat. Consider swimming lessons at a local Boys & Girls Club or YMCA this summer.
Just an FYI...The club where my children sail, taught them to "turtle" or capsize their boats. They learn how to get out from under the Opti and to turn it back over and bail. It is an important lesson, because if a wind blows them over it decreases the fear and panic.
Good luck with your decision.
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