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60 Youth Sailors Gather at Lough Ree For Inaugural Double Handed Sailing Symposium

14th October 2021
West Cork's David Harte discussing the setting of realistic goals at the inaugural youth sailing symposium at Lough Ree Yacht Club
West Cork's David Harte discussing the setting of realistic goals at the inaugural youth sailing symposium at Lough Ree Yacht Club

Garrett Leech reports on the inaugural Youth Double Handed Sailing Symposium was held at Lough Ree Yacht Club last weekend.

Just over 60 sailors from all over Ireland descended on the Club Saturday morning for this anticipated event, many not really understanding what lay in store for them but liking the sound of what they had heard! There were 31 boats and the fleets consisted of 420, 29er, Mirror & RS Feva. Event organiser, Garrett Leech had dreamed up the concept during the Summer and it began slowly to take shape. Most Youth fleets have the opportunity to receive coaching, normally the Coach sets out the objectives for the on-the-water activity to the group, it is then executed on the water and there is normally a debrief ashore to discuss how things went.

The Symposium was not supposed to be this, it was conceived firstly to bring together the main double-handed Youth fleets, as a larger sailing family & to promote mutual appreciation of each other’s classes. Single-handed dinghy sailing is relatively safe in Ireland with the Laser & Topper’s, commanding large fleets at events, double handed racing probably needs a bit more attention.

The next objective of the gathering was to try and address the more fundamental issues that arise in competitive racing and then specifically, double handed racing whilst getting the participants to think through the issues. What else could be done but to gather the best Coaches in Ireland to Lough Ree! The inimitable David Harte, late of FMOEC, Schull, immediately bought into the concept and took the lead. As did Graeme Grant, Honorary Irish man, and Life Coach! Graeme travelled from Germany to attend. Olympic Sailor, Robert Dickson who arrived in from Marseille on the Friday evening, travelled down, joined by Cara McDowell (Malahide Yacht Club) who is well known for her dedication in promoting/coaching double handed racing, in particular, the 420 fleet.

Ceremonies were opened by means of “Ice Breaker’s” developed by Graeme & Cara which sought to break down barriers between the diverse fleets, ages & geographic dispersion. Graeme’s enthusiasm in particular, was enough to melt icecaps! By the time proceedings kicked off, there was a relaxed atmosphere. The modules that David Harte had prepared got the kids thinking, interaction was encouraged and there were break out groups where crews discussed issues such as improving communications & how to set realistic goals for themselves, facilitated by the Coaches. The classroom-based modules included (amongst others) the following:

  • Setting Individual Goals & Objectives
  • The Importance of Self Coaching
  • Partnership & Good Communication
  •  How to “Iron out issues”
  •  Learning to Lose, Learning to Win

Robert Dickson spoke at length about his “Journey” to becoming an Olympic Skiff Sailor with Sean. He connected well with the kids and they waited on his every word, from Rob & Sean’s many early defeats to winning the Youth Championships in 2018 and of course, the Tokyo Olympics. Many were unaware that Rob had learned to sail at Lough Ree Yacht Club. His talk neatly led into the “Learning to Lose, Learning to Win” presentation. You would have been forgiven if you thought you had walked in on an IMI Programme for kids, lots of life skills!

The on-the-water activity was also with a difference, first thing was to practice what the kids had learned in the “Importance of Self Coaching”. Then David & the Coaches had the Sailors swapping positions (Helm/Crew), so as appreciate the difference in their roles but also swapping fleets where 420 Sailors quickly learned to appreciate the importance of balance/trim! And 29er Sailors to cope with the array of strings & a symmetrical spinnaker!

The weekend culminated on Sunday with racing but of course nothing ordinary! David Harte ran two races under Average Lap Time (Portsmouth Yardstick), 30 boats off the same start line and sailing around a square directly outside the Club House! It was exciting to watch and no boats were damaged in the making of the movie! Thankfully, the wind was light (though the 29er Sailors might not have agreed!) and the overall victory went to 420 Sailors, Alex Leech & Conor Paul of Lough Ree Yacht Club.

A big thanks to the Coaches; Dave Harte, Graeme Grant, Rob Dickson & Cara McDowell. The experience that Dave & Graeme (in particular) brought to the weekend was fantastic, these guys are a lot more than sailing coaches.

The feedback from the event was very positive, it is likely that the event will be run again next year.

Afloat.ie Team

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