Youth sailing courses may still be offered this year through LCYC

Young sailors set off along Gore Bay’s shore during the Little Current Yacht Club’s Learn to Sail program’s Gore Bay school session. photo by Bryce Mastelko

MANITOULIN – Little Current Yacht Club (LCYC), like so many organizations on Manitoulin, will not be operating as usual this summer, but they are determined to see its popular youth sailing course continued in three Island communities next month.

“There’s a better than 50/50 chance that we will offer a decreased enrollment youth sailing program this summer,” said Bruce O’Hare, LCYC’s youth sailing spokesperson. “It may be the only organized sport available this summer for youth.”

Due to physical distancing measures, introductory sailing courses will not be offered this year, which would require a more hands-on approach, but lessons for those with some sailing knowledge will be available through instructor Bryce Mastelko, who is returning as coach by popular demand.

LCYC is hoping to offer youth sailing in Little Current, Gore Bay and Manitowaning, provided they get the blessing from each of those municipalities.

Protocols have been set out by Ontario Sailing as to how to instruct in a pandemic, which will mean a decrease in the number of students they would normally take on.

The learn-to-sail program is largely paid for by funds raised through yacht club memberships and in the races held each summer, but there will be no races this year.

Mr. O’Hare explained that the insurance for LCYC comes in at $4,000, which covers the youth sailing program, but which is impossible to meet without income. While lamenting this fact to Cambrian Insurance, the yacht club’s insurance company, the local broker agreed to halve the costs of the insurance premium for the year because of a lack of functions. They also kicked in $200 toward the program.

“A potential start date is the week of July 6,” Mr. Mastelko told The Expositor. “However, we are still waiting for Ontario Sailing to give us the go-ahead for full programming. Most likely (prescribed) levels will be hard to give this year, and sailing will be a more for fun style. Ontario sailing is recommending reducing sailing lesson hours as well.”

Mr. Mastelko said, at most, there will be two or three kids per lesson who will be sailing alone (one per boat). “This will restrict who can sail,” Mr. Mastelko admitted. “Most likely, very few beginners can be taught this summer.” 

“Also, due to the nature of safety with TASTE (totally awesome sailing training experience) programs, instructors can’t not be in contact with younger kids, especially in emergency situations. Because of this, we most likely will not teach beginners in TASTE and CANSail 1 courses.”

Mr. Mastelko said that sailors with prior experience will be preferred, and there is talk of offering family sailing, since those in the same household can be together under Transport Canada and Sail Canada guidelines. 

The cost is $40 per day. “Most likely we will go for part day teaching, since a whole day with very limited contact is not always fun for kids,” Mr. Mastelko said. There is also a possibility that lessons will also only run some days during the week, or by private lessons during evenings or weekends, he added.

“Under no circumstances am I comfortable with having youth wear masks on boats, since there is an even greater risk to their health and safety,” Mr. Mastelko continued. “I will be wearing a mask, however, since I am aware of the risk and would rather keep all the members of the community safe.”

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