This year marks the 38th consecutive year for the popular Cape Youth Sailing summer program. The program is designed for youth between the ages of eight and 17 years of age, and teaches the fundamentals of sailing, catered to each sailor’s level of experience, from first-time beginners to experienced sailors.
Lead Instructor Brad Hill, who has been with the program for more than 20 years, says that the Youth Sailing Program has three goals.
“First and foremost is safety," said Hill. "Second, is that the kids have fun. And third, is that hopefully they learn to love sailing.”
The Cape Youth Sailing Program is managed by the and runs three two-week sailing sessions each summer. Costs about $300 per two-week session for Cape residents.
There are also half-day sessions which are ideal for the newest young sailors. There are about 35 youth sailors participating in this fun community program each week. The program is open primarily to Cape St. Claire residents; non-residents can attend on a space-available basis, but slots fill up quickly. This year, all available slots were booked within a week of the opening announcements.
All of the Youth Sailing Program instructors are at least 18 years of age and are US Sailing Level I Instructor certified, as well as hold current First Aid/CPR certificates. Hill, the Lead Instructor, has a Level 2 Certificate.
Many of the instructors are “graduates” of the Cape Youth Sailing Program themselves, and represent Broadneck High School in local races (not sponsored by the school system). These members from the Broadneck area are quite competitive and placed first in the East Coast in 2010.
The Cape Youth Sailing instructors use five motorized boats for instruction and safety. Classes use nine program-owned 420s (a 14’ sloop-rigged sailboat for 2-3 young sailors), or in Vanguard and Optimist prams, designed to be captained by a single sailor.
All the young sailors are required to wear Personal Floatation Devices and water shoes for safety. They each participate in a “swim test" to determine “water comfort” on the first day of the program, and are grouped according to their skill level.
The program starts at 9 a.m., when the young sailors head straight for the water. They each bring their own lunches and have a break at noon to eat.
On the day I was there, some of the kids were having so much fun on the water, they didn’t seem interested in coming in for lunch. One of the generous homeowners near the beach allows the children to eat their lunches in his back yard where there is some shade.
The program ends at 4 p.m. each day. Instructors keep a close eye on the weather by monitoring the radar screen equipped in the storage building. They have also worked closely with the to ensure that all of their safety provisions are up-to-date. Lead Instructor Hill says, “We are all vigilant about safety on the water, and off the water.”
While the main focus of the program is on the kids, parents of the youth sailors are also involved. Each child's parent (or adult substitute) must schedule one full day (or two half-days) per student per session as an adult supervisor. This "Parent-of-the-Day” program is to help the program, and no sailing experience is necessary. Some of the duties include manning the radio, watching for jellyfish, and offering snacks to the young sailors.
From the looks of it, it also seemed like a fun day off from work spent enjoying watching the children learn to sail and enjoying our beautiful Lake Claire beach! The Cape Youth Sailing group often performs behinds the scenes, like cleaning the beach and watching over the pier.
Cape Youth Sailing Program helps to cultivate a life-long interest in the sport of sailing and offers another example of what makes Cape St. Claire such a great place to live. They also offer a one-week adult class in the evenings the week before the youth program begins.