Sails, sun, and summer fun. All this was promised at the AoFan Sailing Club summer water sports camp, and they have not disappointed. This is the second year my boys have bundled themselves off to the Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Park for some summer fun in the water. This year, the week-long day camp is offered in partnership with Sports Beijing. Unlike previous years’ camps, which have focused primarily on sailing Optimists and Far East 11s, this multi-sports camp provides children with a variety of water activities as well, like kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding for when the wind isn’t as steady enough to sail.
The sailing lessons begin with land-based instruction on rigging and de-rigging the boat. Then, there’s a discussion of plenty of safety rules and regulations. Finally, the children are ready for their first taste of the water. They help rig one of the bigger boats, and with the coach as lead sailor, they all clamber in, push off into the water and take turns steering throughout the lake. For this first exercise, the coach gives a lot of verbal instructions to make sure everyone knows what to do and what to expect in case troubles arise.
It is inevitable that the children fall in to the water during their lessons, either by circumstance or by choice! All camp participants, regardless of swimming skill, wear life vests before they hit any water-bound equipment.
One of the important lessons the children learn is how to right a capsized boat. Not surprisingly, this is a favorite lesson among children. Don’t worry, there is fair warning given well in advance of the exercise. At a given signal, the boat is capsized, heads bob up out of the water, a head count is made, and then everyone helps to straighten up the vessel and gets back in. They all then head back for the dock, pull the boat out of the water and proceed to de-rig the boat.
After several repeat exercises, the children are ready to take smaller boats out on their own.. The coaches, on motorized pump boats, weave in and out of the rows of sailors, shouting out instructions. Kids are then matched by ability and short races are held among them throughout the week. Scores are kept and on the last day, recognition is given for the best and the fastest skippers. There is an award for everyone, including most improved and even most friendly camper! Clearly AoFan recognizes that the wins of the children are to be made both in and out of the water.
On the last day of camp, there is a mini-regatta. Children go out on individual boats as well as in teams. By this time, the coaches have already identified who among the older children have what they call “the personality to be a skipper.” This requires not only strong technical skills to lead the team, but more importantly, a calm and steady disposition and even a sense of insightfulness and an ability to make quick decisions.
I personally like how the exercise of sailing encourages all these skills to come into play, perhaps without the children even being aware of it as they steer the boat across the water. For the mini-regatta, parents are welcome to come aboard one of the motorized boats with some AoFan teaching assistants. This way they can record close up images of their kids for posterity, and when the biting chill of winter hits, the family will have these memories of a fun summer sailing camp to look back on.
Summer camps run weekly until end of August. Check their website for more info.
Inside Beijing Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, 19 Baima Lu, Shunyi District (5949 4599 , 139 1046 5950) 顺义区白马路19号奥林匹克水上公园内
Take Jingcheng highway and exit off Baima Road then head east 15 km until you see the Olympic Rowing Park on your left on Bai Ma Lu. Turn left at the stop lights immediately after the Olympic Rowing Lake onto Zuo Di Lu and go 20 meters and take an immediate left into the East gate of the park. Tell the guard that you are going to AoFan Sailing and then follow the park road around to the right until you cross a bridge and see the sailboats and tents for Ao Fan Sailing on your right side.
Or take Jingmi Lu north and exit onto Bai Ma Lu at the Mapo bridge intersection. Head east 4 km on Bai Ma Lu until you see the Olympic Rowing Park on your left. Go past the park and turn left at the stop lights immediately after the Olympic Rowing Lake onto Zuo Di Lu and go 20 meters and take an immediate left into the East gate of the park. Tell the guard that you are going to AoFan Sailing and then follow the park road around to the right until you cross a bridge and see the sailboats and tents for Ao Fan Sailing on your right side.
Photo by Dana Cosio-Mercado
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.