By Kirsty Venter and Kundai Chihambakwe

The Sailing School is an annual event which has been held every year for the past 53 years. It was established in 1966 with the intention of promoting and developing sailing as a sport for children aged eight and upwards and has traditionally been held in the last week of the first term school holidays.

It has since garnered much interest from adults who are now allowed to participate, and all participants must be able to swim. Beginners are put into a swimming pool with their boat for a safety test before they are allowed out onto the lake.

Last year’s program was held at Lake Chivero and attracted participation from children as young as seven and adults as old as 75. The seven year olds were only allowed to participate if their parents had their own boats for them. This year’s edition will take place from 30th April to 4th May at Jacana Yacht Club, Lake Chivero.

From the basic Beginners Group, the budding young yachtsmen and yachtswomen move up into the next group which is called the Tadpoles. From there they progress successively into the Green Group, White Group, Yellow Group and Red Group after being tested and found to be proficient within the group they are already in. Some of the children have greatly excelled and gone on to participate in international competitions in South Africa.

During the Sailing School, most participants camp in tents on the shores of the lake for the five days. The event generates outstanding team spirit and fun through games and social activities in the evenings which include volleyball, a quiz, group talent night and bingo. There is full catering at affordable prices, or you can bring your own food to cook in camp.

The Optimist Class Racing Association (OCRA) has 20 of its own Optimist boats, which it hires out at affordable prices to children who do not have a boat of their own to help encourage the sport and promote its inherent positive values in a safe environment. The association also hires out its boats for use at the weekend.  An individual child is normally only allowed to use an OCRA boat regularly for a year at most, so that it can then be made available to others who are just beginning. The tutors give their services free of charge and a number of companies such as Safe Guard support the event through various donations.

The Jacana Yacht Club is active and has beautiful lawns, clubhouse, swimming pool, newly refurbished bar and change rooms, clean borehole water, accommodation in chalets and great camping facilities with electricity points, all under stunning Msasa trees.

The water quality at the eastern end of the Lake is not ideal, but at Jacana, which is to the west, the water is good for sailing. The committee has installed a lakeside outdoor shower for sailors to rinse off after getting wet.

Rather like “Swallows and Amazons”, a classic sailing book by Arthur Ransome, the lake beckons for adventurous sailing across to the game park. There, one can sail quietly up the many creeks, listen to birds, and see White Rhino and Antelope species all in their natural surroundings. There is a landing jetty where one can stop to visit San Bushmen paintings. There’s also a good sail round Dassie Island to Kuimba Shiri for tea or lunch and its famous bird collection.

For more information, contact sailingschool2019@gmail.com or call Kirsty on 0779 479 175

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