Passion and ingenuity get kids afloat

Colville Youth Sailing Academy sailing in Colville Bay.

It almost sounds like the name of a movie.

Along the lines of ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’.

But the Colville Youth Sailing Academy is not fiction.

It’s very real – and doing a wonderful job for the kids of one of the country’s most far-flung and sport-starved communities.

If it were a movie – and that’s not a bad idea actually – the hero would be Spike Mountjoy.

He’s the academy’s founder and commodore.

Spike decided that he was ‘the someone’ who could do something about the lack of organised recreational opportunities for the young’uns in little Colville town, the northernmost and most isolated population centre on the Coromandel Peninsula.

“It came out of wanting to give those young people an opportunity to develop those skills that come with sport,” says Beth Pearfall, who is one of the academy’s learn-to-sail coaches.

“Particularly like in sailing where you’re out there and you’re learning self-reliance, learning about the weather and everything that comes with that.

And also being part of an academy where you can progress, you can learn.

“It was formed really by Spike’s passion for sailing.

”Spike lit the match, but many others, like Beth and Alex Hall, a highly experienced racing sailor from the United Kingdom, who’s settled in the area, fuelled the fire.

They all agreed this was something the Colville community – home to a school with a roll of 36, one shop, two cafes, community hall, post office, the Colville Social Service Collective, medical centre and fire station, and not enough houses for all who want to live there – could pull together for the younger generation.

Following an informal start it was Yachting New Zealand’s offer to run a coaching course in April last year that got the ball rolling more officially.

“We had eight local people come and they did two days of coach training,” says Beth.

“So we got a whole lot of Yachting NZ qualified learn-to-sail coaches.

”The academy makes a point of catering for kids who like racing and those more into just pottering around.

“My sailing background has been in cruising, not racing,” says Beth.

“So we’re like: ‘Let’s take the boats and sail up the coast a bit and have a fire on the beach’.

“Others are better at racing, so they’ll set up a course and have them practising tacks, etc.

“Some of the kids are really into racing and want to learn how to go faster.

That’s what they love.

And others, they just want to play on the water and go around the rocks and see what’s over there.

“So it’s nice to be able to offer those different things.

”Eleven-year-olds Kiahui and Piri sum up the thoughts of the kids.

“It’s fun and a great way to spend your weekend,” says Kiahui.

“Good to learn another new thing.

” “I like sailing,” says Piri, “because I get to be in the elements and in the water and I can see sting rays and fishes”.

Getting boats was no problem, with a number of generous donations.

Just P-classes and Optis at this stage, along with a Viking – like a mini Laser.

A few bigger boats for the older kids, who’ve progressed past the little sail trainers, to use would be wonderful, says Beth.

But there’s a problem with that.

“We’re being offered boats quite often and we can’t take them because we don’t have anywhere to put them.

“At the moment all our boats are stacked up in Alex’s garage.

And every time we have to get the boats to the bay it’s a big palaver.

It means sailing doesn’t happen as often as it could.

”So a permanent base, with things like appropriate storage space and good washdown facilities, is the major item on the academy’s agenda.

And for a small organisation, even one so rich in human dynamism, it’s a big ask.

It’s something, Beth says, the academy could do with some help on.

“It would be massive for us in making it more possible to offer the sailing.

Because at the moment the set-up is actually three hours.

“We do it because we love it but it is a lot of work.

”While funds and resources are short, one thing they have in plenty is local support.

“It’s an amazing community effort,” says Beth.

“Sometimes the firetruck will come down and hose down the boats, so that makes our washdown easy.

“One of the grandmothers of the kids is sewing reusable bags that you can take to the supermarket.

“We’ve got a screenprinting machine and printed a bunch of Colville Youth Sailing Academy logos, and she’s sewing them onto the bags and selling them at the local store to fundraise for us.

“Money’s a problem for us up here, but there’s so much community spirit and it’s such fun.

“For those moments and those opportunities that we’re able to give the young people here, it is really special.

”Get in touch with the Colville Youth Sailing Academy through their Facebook page or call Beth on 021 237 8678 if you’d like to help, or donate.

Or perhaps get started with making that movie.


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