Howth Yacht Club’s Junior Organiser Sara Lacy has been working through a highly productive eighteen months of research and implementation since being appointed to the post on her election to the General Committee in December 2016 writes W M Nixon. Several strands of development are successfully being brought on stream to provide a major increase in the number of junior trainees benefitting from the club’s many facilities and availability of training craft.
The HYC Junior Organiser came to boats in Dun Laoghaire as learner sailor Sara Kenny, but crossed Dublin Bay on marrying into the long-established Howth sailing dynasty of the Lacy family. She and husband William have three children - two girls aged 13 and 15, and a boy of 17 - and that, combined with a high-powered background as a fine art valuer and auctioneer, gives her the ideal skills set to provide the initiative which has got Howth junior sailing moving again.
This initiative has seen the club’s Junior Training Programme becoming much more user–friendly and responsive to the needs of beginners and their parents alike. In tandem with it, HYC Commodore Joe McPeake inaugurated the Quest Howth project, a sailing school run by Jeannie McCarthy. It’s based within the club premises, yet is open to all. The variety of courses and summer sailing camps which Quest provides is visionary in its scope, and during this past month has included programmes on Learning to Sail in several languages, notably German, Spanish, French and Irish.
"Several strands of development are successfully being brought on stream to provide a major increase in the number of junior trainees"
The junior-orientated buzz of activity around the club has been further increased in recent weeks with the introduction by Sara Lacy and Sarah Robertson of a pilot scheme of the STEM learning programme for three local schools. STEM is based on the practical learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. These may seem ordinary and everyday subjects in a classroom setting, but in a boat and sailing-related programme as being developed by Sarah Robertson’s Hands-On Learning project, they take on a lively and absorbing new meaning.
Sarah Robertson was originally Sarah Lovegrove, the daughter of noted sailing administrator and active participant David Lovegrove, and she learned her own sailing in Howth. But with international sailing and training experience since gained at several major training centres, she finds that her own home port is providing the perfect demographic and topographical setup to develop the Hands-On Learning practical experience with sufficient detail, research and feedback to envisage developing it at a countrywide level.
While boats and equipment are of course essential to the development of this impressive initiative, Sarah Lacy and her team are giving the multi-directional expansion of Howth’s junior sailing the essential human touch, and her summary of their experience in recent weeks tells us much about why, for this season, it looks very much as though the young people going happily through the Howth YC Junior Training Programme in all its various aspects will have seen total numbers trebled or even quadrupled over 2017’s figure, with the STEM scheme on its own drawing in 156 eager learners this week.
In her summary of STEM’s working last week, Sarah Lacy captures the mood and flavour of a fascinating project:
“We invited three Nationals Schools from the Howth Peninsula - Scoil Mhuire, St Fintans NS and The Burrow - to participate in the STEM scheme, wherein all we had 152 children in groups of 30 at HYC through last week. The children attending were in 5th class - roughly age 11. Each school provided volunteers, teachers and parents to assist on the day, and experienced Club members such as Scorie Walls, Terry Harvey, Gerry Sargent, Lara Jameson, Holly Quinn, William Lacy Jnr, and Helen Brosnan all manned their stations to teach the children in the very enjoyable ‘hands-on learning’ method.
Many topics were covered in a practical variety of ways with ecology being a subject of special interest, while you could almost hear the penny drop on the realisation of the how the tides work quietly yet inevitably on seeing the marking on the pylon as they passed it a number of times during the day, putting another marker to show the rise, and noting the time.”
As the courses get underway punctually at 9.00am each morning, following lunch the afternoon is then clear to transfer the teaching and learning afloat to Quest Howth with Jeannie McCarthy and the HYC J/80s. The fresh set of experiences this provides is brought promptly to a conclusion at 4.0pm with a diverse group of happy people enlightened and exhilarated by a day of very special learning, an introduction to sailing which is so neatly geared to consumer needs that it gives real hope for lasting success and an enduring increase in sailing numbers.