Youth learn to sail at summer camp

Local youngsters learned to sail last week as part of the Alberta Sailing Association’s Mobile Optimist Sailing School (MOSS).

Local youngsters learned to sail last week as part of the Alberta Sailing Association’s Mobile Optimist Sailing School (MOSS).

Held at Camp Woods, a Scouts Canada camp, the program aims to increase interest in sailing, a sport where interest has been waning, said coach Hannah Meers.

“The race teams are dying,” she said.

Lessons which took place over the week were organized by Brian Anderson, a member of Sylvan Lake Sailing Club. Anderson noticed the lack of junior sailing lessons in the area, where there had been some previously, and decided to make them a reality again. With the help of donations from the community, boats were purchased from the Alberta Sailing Association (ASA).

“It’s a great activity because it’s often pretty windy around here,” said Anderson. “I think for anybody around a lake, it’s a good way to build independence because on the boat it’s just yourself.” He has been sailing for 30 years, and added that the activity also increases lake and water safety awareness.

“I think it’s really key, especially if you live around water. It makes you feel really comfortable around water, and when I was a kid it taught me responsibility because I had to take care of the boat,” said Meers.

Originally from Strathmore, she has been sailing since she was 10, and coaching since she was 16. She fell in love with the sport when she went to a Girl Scout camp in Montana and experienced it there.

Meers joined a race team soon after she started sailing. She said being in charge of a boat and all its equipment, and being on time for races, helped her learn responsibility.

She learned a lot about herself and how she handles tough situations from being alone on a boat when it’s windy.

Meers returned from Europe in May, where she had been training and trying out for the 2012 Summer Olympics. While she did not make the cut, she is hoping to change that for 2016.

She has enjoyed her time coaching in Sylvan Lake, and said lesson participants have picked up sailing principles quickly.

One element of the lessons, said Meers, has been “balance drills”.

Those learning to sail continually push the limits of keeping their boat upright until they fall into the water.

“It kind of takes the frightening factor away from falling in the water,” said Meers.

Leanne Hansen, 10, took the lessons. She said she was nervous to capsize her boat at first, but later found it fun.

Hansen’s father bought a boat when she was eight, and she has been sailing every summer since then. The lessons mark the first time she has sailed by herself, which she said comes with a lot more responsibility.

“You have to know what you’re doing,” she said, adding that sailing solo is a lot of fun. She said she wanted to learn more about sailing so she knows more about boats if she gets her own someday.

“I really feel confident that I can do it. I bet if I did this over again that would be very special because it’s just a nice hobby to do,” said Hansen.

The lessons will run again at Camp Woods from July 30 – August 3. They’re open to young people ages nine to 14. More information is available at