Learning to Sail II

Of frogs, fast cats and future instructors.

During the second weekend, we sailed aboard The Frog one of a fleet of small, very fast racing catamarans called Fireflies, designed and built in Phuket. The course was lead by two local sailors currently doing their Instructor training at SIA. Unlike the previous weekend, Mike’s attention now went to Chris and Matt, observing their teaching methods, coaching and making suggestions as they went along. SIA’s selection criterion for instructor candidates is very important. “We want instructors who can sail well but who have a genuine enthusiasm and passion for passing on knowledge and skills” explained Mike.

Both skippers fit the bill. Chris Jongerius, a robust blonde, whose gusto is well-suited to teaching, hails from Holland where he spent the better part of nearly 60 years at sea. Born of a sailing family, Chris is a natural on the water. “It is pleasure – a real pleasure – to teach other people to sail!” he said. To him, the important elements of teaching others to sail include good humour and avoiding a pedantic approach, “feel free, be honest, be yourself!”

Like his Dutch counterpart, American Matt McGrath was born and raised in a sailing family. He has owned a number of yachts over the years and has taught sailing to American youth. Matt is a well of technical knowledge and practical skill and taught a concise lesson on anchoring, as well as hands-on guidance aboard ship.

Our course culminated with participation in the local, Ao Chalong Yacht Club races. Less of a training than an adrenalin rush, the race gave us a chance to watch the skills we were learning applied under strenuous conditions.

After comparing notes, we all agreed that understanding wind and sails was the most helpful thing we learned. “I am beginning to understand how the wind works and the importance of reading the wind,” explained Rebecca. “I have learned a lot more about wind and how to use it most effectively” said Julia. “I’ve also learned the function of different sails and how to sail from points A to B when the wind is not coming from the most favourable position” she elaborated. We all agreed that we will continue to learn and sail more often as a result of the course.

Personally, I can say that the course prepared me to participate in sailing as a part of a crew. I have many nautical miles to cross before I might claim a heroic epithet, but with my hand at the helm or trimming a sail, my days as ballast babe are done.


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