Following a meeting with other sail training organisations, this week, the social conversation got onto some of the positive stories and impacts sail training has had on individual young people. But the same theme was winding its way through all our discussions and that was the fact that quite a lot of people are confusing sail training with learning to sail.
We are involved with sail training every day; living, breathing and understanding it but if you are not from a sail training background or haven’t come across sail training organisations then you can be forgiven (partly) that jumping onto a boat with a bunch of strangers and heading off over the horizon is all about learning to sail. However, it is the greater impact of personal and social development, positive role models and getting people involved regardless of their background and financial situations that sail training is about.
For Challenge Wales, we get involved in a young persons journey for just a short time (even as little as a day or two), while the Princes Trust, for example, engage young people in a programme of activities of several weeks where measuring the impact of those activities and where the young person is in their own journey is easier. Even so, even in the small time we have people onboard Challenge Wales we can measure personal achievements and positive development and what is happening to the young person in the Challenge Wales space.
So, sail training is a diversionary activity, is a great leveller – placing everyone on an even keel, is a challenge, is about routine, discipline, learning about differences people may have and accepting people for who they are. It is cross-generational, it is working as a team, it is empowering, at times it is sleep deprivation due to working in watches, it is great at developing communication skills and getting people to problem solve. It helps people grow in self-confidence and self-esteem and gives them a positive ‘can-do’ attitude. It is sometimes a turning point in a young person’s life.
And it is at that turning point that is hard to put a price on. For some, the road can lead them to mixing with the wrong people, using banned substances, drinking, take them into crime, take them towards jail and all this costs money in dealing with the problems and finding the right solution. Sail training can help youngsters change tack and develop them into a slightly different person, show them other paths and opportunities and help them into employment or training. It may not help everybody but the positive benefits are there.
Evidence from research studies, including one from Edinburgh University have shown the positive benefits of sail training, the benefits of teaching young people lifeskills through the medium of sailing. It’s experiential learning, it’s taking the ‘classroom’ outdoors.
You’ve probably heard of Outward Bound activities, take that onto the water and now it is time to start talking Sail Training. The more organisations that get behind Sail Training the more young people we can help.
In the UK the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) can help you find a sail training provider. Challenge Wales is a member of ASTO and can offer sail training opportunities with funding to a variety of young people aged 12 – 25 years (as individuals or groups). As more companies and supporters get involved with Challenge Wales the more funding opportunities become available to those who need it.