US SAILING Communications Manager
US SAILING had the opportunity to interview Doris and Steve Colgate of the Offshore Sailing School to discuss the many benefits of family sailing. In this Q&A, Steve and Doris explain how sailing is the perfect activity for building camaraderie and learning life-long skills as a familty, while having a great time on the water. They provided insight on why they believe family sailing serves as a way to sustain the growth of sport. Also, Steve and Doris breakdown what it takes to be an effective family sailing instructor? The Offshore Sailing School offers a variety of courses in multiple destinations around the country. Find out what these experts had to say:
US SAILING: How is learning to sail as a family a positive bonding experience?
Doris & Steve: Learning to sail together as a family creates respect, communication and interaction with one another as the instructor helps each member achieve a shared goal. Many families who take our courses say it is the best experience they’ve ever had together. They learn to work as a team; to rely on each other and become self-reliant at the same time. The experience of driving a sailboat using wind alone is inspiring and exciting. They tell us the time they spend aboard together is fun and fulfilling. Family members become “friends” rather than parents and kids. And we are often told their relationships (between a father and son, a mother and daughter for instance) have been greatly enhanced by the experience of learning and sailing together.
US SAILING: What family life skills can people learn while sailing together?
Doris & Steve:
1.) How to get along and work together as a team.
2.) How “the small stuff” becomes unimportant when sharing the ups and the downs of living in close quarters and achieving a goal together.
3.) Open communication with understanding and respect for each other.
US SAILING: How is family sailing a different experience than learning another sport together as a family?
Doris & Steve: The family is a “captured audience” – living together in quarters much smaller than back home, sharing the same tasks aboard, and working as a team. Unlike learning to ski or hit a tennis ball better, the whole family is involved in sailing a boat, making it go where you want it to go, and feeling its power.
US SAILING: How does the team work experience involved in sailing help build camaraderie within the family?
Doris & Steve: Team work builds dependency on one another and respect for each other’s abilities.
US SAILING: Do you think family sailing will help sustain and grow the sport from one generation to the next? If so, how?
Doris & Steve: Yes, if they have a great experience learning together. For families to enjoy sailing together, they should learn with an instructor that takes away the “Dad is making me do this” syndrome (like teaching your kid to drive; let a third party do the teaching). That is the KEY to kids and teens wanting to continue sailing with their parents, and later on introducing their own kids and teens to this incredible lifestyle. Everyone is on an equal footing in the learning experience and the younger participants feel important because their jobs aboard are important. All the family units we teach are inspired and excited about going on to more sailing and sharing more experiences together under sail. Multi-generational families will charter boats and vacation together too.
US SAILING: How can we ensure that sailing remains a life-long sport at a recreational level?
Doris & Steve: We must create an enticing vision of sailing wherever we go; talk about it to friends and associates; and stop calling it a “sport.” Sailing is a lifestyle. It opens the doors to a multitude of adventures. You don’t have to own a boat; there are yacht clubs and commercial sailing clubs to join, and fabulous charter companies with so many places to sail a family can take a different vacation every year without having to go back to the same location.
US SAILING: What is the biggest myth about the challenges of learning to sail?
Doris & Steve: It may look complicated to people and perhaps the language is difficult. But truthfully, the people we teach like to learn and constantly tell us the course they took ranked right up there with (or surpassed) the best professional courses they have taken.
US SAILING: What do instructors need to focus on when training a family, as opposed to an individual or group of individuals?
Doris & Steve: The instructor should treat everyone aboard equally and follow the curriculum just as he or she would with an all adult group. Obviously, some of the younger kids will not have as much “staying power” or retention, so if they want to take a break and go below to play that’s fine. Engaging everyone, rotating positions so kids steer just as much as their parents (if they want to) is very satisfying for all. Likewise, kids should be rotated into the other positions on the boat so they understand team dynamics and are inspired to learn as much as their parents. Diplomacy, understanding and encouragement are key – just as they are with adult groups. When the kids are treated with respect and given a lot of encouragement, parents beam! And everyone is happy.
For more information on Steve and Doris Colgate's Offshore Sailing School, please visit their website.
About US SAILING
The United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org.