THE Buffalo River Yacht Club (BRYC) is giving youngsters from around Buffalo City a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn a sailing skipper’s licence.
Taught by Buffalo River Sailing School co-owners Erich Jordan and John Atterbury, a total of 47 youngsters have been attending a sailing course every Saturday from 9am to 4pm during the month of February.
“The Buffalo River Sailing School has been around for a long time and we’ve often found that many young people are very interested in learning how to sail, but more often than not are unable to afford it,” Jordan said.
“This is our way of trying to give them an opportunity and make the sport more accessible to them,” he said.
Ending off this weekend, the course is offered free of charge and upon completion, the youngsters will receive a South African Sailing (SAS)-accredited competent crew certificate.
“This certificate is the first step towards earning your skipper’s ticket. Once they complete the course, they will be able to confidently work as onboard crew members,” said Jordan.
The month-long course included a two-hour theory lesson, where nautical terms and navigation is taught, as well as a three-hour sailing lesson, where the theory is practically applied.
Seven BRYC skippers have joined in, giving their time and their yachts to help Jordan and Atterbury give the youngsters practical experience on board.
“It’s been very rewarding to see the teamwork and camaraderie that has gone into this. The club as a whole has been extremely supportive, a lot of effort and sacrifice has gone into this programme, but the kids really do make it all worthwhile,” said Jordan.
He said 33 of the youngsters doing the course were from George Randell High School, with many of them considering a future career in the industry.
The school has a maritime economics and nautical sciences elective, which pupils can choose to do as part of their syllabus from Grade 10.
This course aims to give them a tangible sailing experience as many of them have never been on a boat before.
“I am so grateful for what BRYC are doing for my pupils,” the school’s subject head Miranda Giyose said.
Echoing the sentiments of many of the pupils, Grade 12 George Randell pupil Ayabonga Spelt expressed how much he enjoyed the practical element of the course.
“The sailing is by far my favourite part. It has increased my understanding and taught me so much more about the industry. I’d definitely like to sail as a hobby one day, but I’d love to be a deepsea diver or a maritime lawyer,” said Spelt.
“Learning the terminology and navigation terms has probably been the most difficult part of the course. It’s also quite physically demanding, but I’m confident and really interested in a career in this field one day,” Grade 10 George Randell pupil Zukhanye Tempi said.
The course is the culmination of a year-long process which started with two open days last year.
The course was open to anyone between the ages of 16 and 30, with both Atterbury and Jordan hoping to run a similar course next year.
Through this course, BRYC are hoping to elect a youth committee and host regular races and events in an effort to get the youth more involved in the sport.
“We’re hoping to raise some funds and buy two more smaller yachts so we can have regular events and the kids can race fairly,” Jordan said.
“These kids have been phenomenal. They have grasped concepts well and really applied the theory we’ve taught them. It has been a real privilege to teach them.”