Beijing may be closer to outer space than it is to the sea, but the chance to sail a boat lies just at the end of subway line 15 for adventurous kids.
Beijing Sailing Center’s Shunyi site offers summer camps, where in just two days campers can be sailing a dinghy on their own. And the adventure doesn’t stop there, as we found out when we talked to Georgina Willis, Senior Instructor at the Center.
“Once the kids have learnt how to sail they have the opportunity to learn how to race in toppers, which is a type of boat used in many centres all round the world. The national events are across China and the top sailors from each club the get to go to the Topper World Championship which happens in different places every year, so this year the race is happening in France and last year the Race was in Northern Ireland.”
Willis herself learned to sail at a young age.
“I grew up on the coast of Scotland,” she told us. “Our back garden was the beach! Dad sailed, so I started sailing when I was seven or eight. I was an instructor at 14, and a senior instructor at 18. It was just a natural progression to move on from learning to teaching.”
And she sees real benefits for the children she teaches.
“It improves their confidence. They’re away from their parents, out of their comfort zone, learning a completely new skill. They usually go out in pairs at first, they have to make friends and learn about teamwork.
“Last year there was one young girl who refused to go out [in a boat] without her sister! Her sister was on the Level 2 course though so she couldn’t go with her. By the end of the camp the girl was not only sailing on her own, but came second in the beginners’ regatta!”
We asked what kids can expect if they attend the sailing camp.
“On the first morning we show them round and get them kitted out with all the safety equipment, then we get them out on the water straight away, and start building their confidence.
“The beginners’ course is two days, so in a five-day camp they also have time for kayaking, windsurfing, paddleboarding, and playing games.”
The camp is suitable for a wide range of ages, Willis told us.
“At our larger base at Beidahe [on the coast] the camp is for 8 to 14-year-olds. They stay in a hotel, and there are camp counselors to look after them. At Aofan it’s less windy, so it’s suitable for 6 years up. The children can stay at a hotel, or come from home every day – it’s only an hour from the center of Beijing on the subway.”
Understandably some kids come back year after year, developing their sailing skills.
“Last year we had fifteen or twenty returners at each camp, doing their Level 2 or Bronze, Silver or Gold course. Some of them are coming for their fourth or fifth year!”
The summer camps start from RMB 5,500 to RMB 7,500 for one week depending on the camp dates. To find out more visit www.beijingsailing.com.
This post is sponsored by BSC
Photos courtesy of BSC