Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass   January 2019


SMYC Introduces Primary School Sailing Program

Youth to Adult - "Y2A" - is a series of articles celebrating sailing's role in youth development for Caribbean children.

Max van der Pol did his homework while employed by St. Maarten Yacht Club (SMYC) since 2017, when he first interviewed me and others about youth sailing in the Caribbean. It was actually part of his post-doctorate work. He reached out to find out what was working locally and elsewhere to gain insights into youth sailing in the Eastern Caribbean.
In 2018, SMYC Board Member Joris van der Eynde came up with the idea to collaborate with a local school to launch a Primary School Sailing Program on St. Maarten. They worked together. It was dedication, research and collaboration that brought this fine idea to fruition. After more than a year's efforts, St. Maarten children will benefit.

SMYC joined forces with the Sister Regina Primary School to introduce 12 students to sailing, beginning in October 2018. These students will sail once a week for two hours during the entire school year.
Max is also sailing instructor for SMYC. He says, "Sailing is a sport of ethics, fair play and sportsmanship. It creates situations that provide opportunities to learn lessons for life about desirable and undesirable conduct. This moral and educational aspect contributes to the positive development of individuals and, in turn, to the development of society. Central to this process are the values of sportsmanship and fair play. These involve much more than just playing within the rules. They are a way of behaving and thinking which incorporate friendship, respect for others on the water, maintaining self-control, dignity and integrity and always competing in the right spirit."

SMYC General Manager Michele Korteweg says, "The Sailing Program of the Sint Maarten Yacht Club relies heavily on sponsorships. It is wonderful to see such an interest in our new Primary School Program. This enthusiasm will allow for us to expand the program to other local primary schools sooner rather than later." The program is sponsored by Windward Island Bank, ICE, Alite, Atlas Construction, Liccom, Arena Base Café, BZSE Law and others.

She continues, "The program does not just focus on sailing. Together with workshops from partners in the marine industry, students will be introduced to the maritime community, which, after tourism, is the second biggest sector on the island. Those who show interest in sailing will potentially be provided the opportunity to continue into the club's regular youth sailing program through individual sponsorships. This will result in further development in the sport as youngsters can continue to learn how to race and start competing in local and regional events."

The late November update from Max van der Pol: "The 12 children are by now starting to become independent sailors and really enjoy their time on the water. We get lots of compliments from parents about how excited they are!" 
For more information about SMYC's Primary School Sailing Program or how you can contribute, contact [email protected].

Ellen Birrell attributes her opportunity to cruise the Caribbean aboard S/V Boldly Go to life skills built in childhood. Believing swimming and sailing are essentials for island youth, she supports Learn to Sail and competitive junior sailing, and serves on sailing development for Caribbean Sailing Association.

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