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ANTIGUA'S NATIONAL SAILING ACADEMY AT ONE YEAR OLD!
Tuesday 26th July 2011

Antigua’s National Sailing Academy is just over one year old, having been officially launched in June of 2010.  The National Sailing Academy is a non-profit organization run by a board of volunteer directors.  As a result of its creation, learning to swim and sail were added by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to the official school curriculum, meaning that all students between the ages of 6 and 18 are eligible for free swimming and sailing lessons as part of their regular school program.

A number of schools immediately expressed interest in the program and after one school year, the Academy is funding 400 school children a week in swimming lessons provided by the Swalings Swim Club based in Jolly Harbour.  The Swim Club has a representative on the Academy’s Board of Directors.  Aside from in the hotels, there are virtually no public pools on the island and although Antigua is surrounded by water, the sea is not always an ideal place to teach children to swim.  Due to adverse conditions, it can actually lead to a fear of the water for children and adults alike.  So it is exceptional that Swalings is able to provide weekly lessons to so many children.

Sailing instruction has taken place at Antigua Yacht Club over the past school year, with 150 students receiving lessons every week.  Because most of the instruction occurs after school hours, the Yacht Club is at capacity and in order to continue to expand the program, two satellite teaching locations are being developed.  The first is at Parham Harbour at the Government Fisheries Project where the Academy has been given permission to create an infrastructure including a launch ramp and secure storage facilities and the Government has offered to pay 50% of the estimated US $20,000 cost.  Another fleet of 10 Optimist dinghies, 6 Pico dinghies and a safety boat will be required for this satellite operation and the Academy is in discussion with Government representatives as to how to fund this satellite operation.

The second satellite operation will be at Jolly Harbour where CDAL and Jolly Harbour Marina are assisting by providing a launch ramp and a secure storage facility.  Jolly Harbour Yacht Club, which has been offering complimentary youth sailing instruction on weekends for some time, has a fleet of dinghies and a chase boat that it will make available to the Academy for its use.  In addition, fee-paying sailing instruction may be offered to visitors to Jolly Harbour in the mornings to offset the cost of teaching students to sail in the afternoons.

At the end of the first full school year of operation, the National Sailing Academy hosted a gathering for students and their parents at Antigua Yacht Club, to provide parents with an opportunity to see their children show off their newly acquired skills.  The Minister of Sport, Senator Winston Williams, was in attendance and presented two trophies.  The Alfie Perkins Memorial Trophy, donated by the Perkins family, was awarded to Daniel Smit, aged 7, for the most enthusiastic sailor under 10 years of age.  The Jamarly Meade Memorial Trophy, donated by the Kelsey family, was presented to Rhone Kirby for the most enthusiastic sailor between 10 and 18 years of age.

With the existence of Antigua’s National Sailing Academy, swimming and sailing have now been designated as national sports and the Academy will continue to strive to prove that there is enough demand and there will be enough success at both recreational and competitive levels to justify financial support from the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.  Antigua’s vibrant yachting industry offers a multitude of employment opportunities both on and off the water, and learning to swim and sail are two steps that may lead to opportunities for Antigua’s youth within that industry.

None of this would have been possible without the generosity and support of the yachting community and some local Antiguan businesses and individuals.  In addition, several fundraising events have been held to help fund the Academy including US $3,000 raised through a raffle held during the RORC Caribbean 600, The Alfie Perkins Memorial Fund donated US $7,500 and the Longo Mai Golf Tournament raised an amazing US $11,500 for the Academy.  The National Sailing Academy and the students who benefit from these donations are exceptionally grateful for the kind and generous support.

For more information on how you can make a donation or see who has already donated, please go to www.nationalsailingacademy.org.

Article extracted from the National Sailing Academy Newsletter No. 1, by Elizabeth Jordan, President of the National Sailing Academy.  Photos compliments of the National Sailing Academy.
 


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