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May. 20, 2022 | Friday
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Sailing school returns after two years, club looking for kids to register
Rod Gardner, director of the Learn to Sail program, is hoping for students to register for the course. (Richard Harley)

After being closed for two years because of COVID-19, the NOTL Sailing Club is gearing up to restart its sailing school for youth again.

Rod Gardner, director of the NOTL club’s “Learn to Sail” program, is eager to get kids signed up for the courses.

During an interview at the sailing club, Gardner was clearly excited about getting it up and running again.

Having been a sailor since he was four years old, he said sailing is a skill he thinks children should learn — from professionals.

The club’s sailing instructors are highly trained and have to take several courses before they can teach students.

Sail Canada is the national authority that creates all of the courses, Gardner said.

“The Ontario Sailing Association puts all our instructors through a fairly rigorous learn to teach program. It’s about 100 hours and about six different courses,” he said.

“So that’s kind of the safety piece of it. You gotta be safe and then you've got to be fun, right?”

The club will host two month-long sailing courses, one in July and one in August, each with capacity of about 30 students.

Right now there is an early bird special available online for parents.

He said so far 16 kids have registered for the courses, which are open to youth ages nine to 16.

The club is also waiting to see if it is selected to receive government funding to open a program for kids ages five to 11.

The organization is also planning to host an alumni night on Mondays for kids who missed out on their last two years and are too old to continue sailing school.

“We’re going to have three Monday nights in July, see if kids want to participate and run a sailing program for them and get them back out on the water, because a lot of those kids have missed out the last couple years. And now they’ve got summer jobs, but they could just come down here on a Monday night and meet their old buddies.”

He said the school is a big part of the club’s mandate as a not-for-profit organization.

“Teaching sailing is one of our founding pillars,” he said, along with racing and cruising.

Eventually, he said the club wants to bring back its adult learn-to-sail program, too. Traditionally, he said, it has been on Tuesday and Thursday nights in the summer.

Gardner said it’s exciting to be able to offer the course again.

He remembers the feeling he had when COVID restrictions were first lifted for sailing.

“That day we we’re allowed to sail again — it was like Saturday morning in July — I was here at 6 a.m. because I couldn’t sleep,” he said.

For kids, it’s just nice to be able to get out and be on the water, on the water.

“It’s that instant feeling that you’re in control of your own vessel, right? You get out there, you’re seven years old, and you’re driving. You’re steering, between you and the wind and the water."

“Finally the wind came in, I went out there and had the lake to myself. It was like Christmas morning again.”

Parents can register their children for classes online at the sailing club’s website, niagaraonthelakesailingclub.com/learn-to-sail.

Cost for the course is $750 for the July session and $700 for the August session, with a $100 discount for early registrants until March 31.

Fees go toward the cost of maintaining and purchasing equipment. The boats used can cost up to $10,000 each, he said.

The club also does fundraising to try to keep the fees as low as possible.

Children in the course must come with their own lifejacket and appropriate footwear.

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