The Guernsey Sailing Trust is a charity that exists to introduce as many people on Guernsey to one of the islands biggest and most freeing resources – the sea, primarily focusing on the island’s children. They also hold courses and classes for people of any age or experience to try their hand at sailing, windsurfing and power boating, starting from beginners at age 6 and ranging up to adult open water and windsurfing.
Sarah Creasey, Claire Chapple and Richard Klein are the team on the ground (or in the sea) making the magic happen, while they have a team of directors and trustees that oversee its running and seasonal staff to help during the warmer months.
‘Sailing is great fun. It’s an outdoor activity that helps to build team spirit and resilience and it also connects you to the wider world. We see kids starting in the pond who are essentially just sitting there in the boat and then there’s this moment when they start to get it, they feel the wind and it’s direction and how that relates to their sails and they’re off,’ said Claire.
‘When you’re skimming across the open water with the wind in your sails, that’s when you start to get hooked,’ he adds.
The team works with all of the primary schools on the island with the aim that no child will move to secondary school without having had the opportunity to get in a boat.
‘We live on this small island, surrounded by sea. I think it’s really important that we encourage our children to interact with it. Being out on the water can feel very freeing and it also builds a sense of confidence and independence, knowing that you are capable of harnessing the elements to get you where you need to go,’ said Sarah.
During the summer months the Sailing Trust acts as a healthy activity hub for groups of teenage sailing lovers.
‘They start as young children and by the time they are 12 or 13 they can get to be really good. We then offer them the opportunity to do an assistant instructor qualification, so they can help some of the younger less experienced sailors when they’re 14,’ said Sarah.
Anyone who has passed the qualification gets the opportunity to work as an assistant, though many spend most of the holidays helping out. Sarah herself learned to sail and then began assisting during her summer holidays. She is now a full-time sailing instructor with the Trust.
‘I think it builds a sense of responsibility and community. They love that we trust them to go move boats around and lead courses. There aren’t quite as many takers for the mopping or toilet cleaning, but there you go,’ said Sarah.
The team describes a number of examples of children who really grew in confidence and social or communication skills as a direct result of learning to sail.
‘Often it’s the children who aren’t into football or hockey, that have a ‘feel’ for it. Sailing is very sensory, you have to have a feel for the tiller, the ropes, the sail and it can bring people out of themselves. We had one young lady with communication difficulties – she rarely spoke – but she went home after a sailing session really enthusiastic and wanting to talk to her mum about it,’ said Richard.
The team offers courses to the public with a number of options running through the summer. Islandmums members get 10% off dinghy sailing for young people – these include ‘Oppies on the Pond’ (age 6-10), ‘Oppies on the Sea’ (age 8-11), Beginner and Improver Dinghy Sailing (age 11-17), Advanced Dinghy Sailing Youth Courses (Age 11-17) and also 10% off windsurfing and Powerboat Level 1 courses.
‘You can start out really gently and then carry on if you want to into racing and competitions. Just sailing around by the shore can be really fun whilst others are drawn to that adrenaline rush you get when you’re going really fast. We encourage everyone to have a go and get out on the water and it’s our mission to make it as accessible as we can,’ said Sarah.