Michigan summers are made for watersports and learning how to sail is a dream come true for kids in metro Detroit. “Sailing is one of the fastest-growing sports across the U.S.,” says Eric Ellison, program director with the Pontiac Sailing Education Foundation (PSEF) Junior Sailing Program at Pontiac Yacht Club. The Junior Sailing Program is bringing summer camp to kids this year.
Kids who might be burned out on traditional sports like basketball, lacrosse and soccer are naturally drawn to the laid-back, enjoyable nature of sailing, Ellison says. “It’s really a departure from traditional sports that can have a high burnout rate. Pontiac Yacht Club is home to a lot of the high school programs in the area.”
The decades-old sailing camp is held on beautiful Cass Lake and is a perfect opportunity for even young kids to learn about sailing. Here, we share more about what your child can expect from PSEF:
No experience required — or build on existing skills
Kids as young as 6 all the way up to age 18 can learn all the basics of sailing at camp. Eighty percent of campers have never been on a sailboat, or have only been out once on a large boat with their family, Ellison says.
“Our camp gives kids an excellent foundation for a lifelong sport that they can enjoy until they are 80,” Ellison says. “Almost every university has a sailing club or team and it’s a sport you can continue once you go to college.” Those with previous sailing experience gain valuable practice and build confidence on the water or learn race team tactics, too. Kids can participate by the week, in a two-week session or for the whole summer, and 80% of kids return year after year.
Sailboats are right-sized for kids
Boats come in different sizes and kids will always use the equipment that is appropriate for their height. “Our smaller boat is the Optimist pram, which is perfect for one or two small kids, and they’re used all over the world. In Europe, they are sailed by kids until about 16 years old,” Ellison says. Taller kids will use a 420 conventional sailboat with two sails.
Kids learn camaraderie and inclusive teamwork
Through the sport of sailing, kids learn how to work with others to set goals and communicate effectively. “There’s a pride in taking care of each other and doing everything correctly,” Ellison says. “Everyone is always involved and there’s no sideline bench. It’s fine to take breaks, but kids will always get right back in the boat.”
Only basic swimming skills are required
“We are looking for basic swimming abilities,” Ellison explains. “Everyone wears lifejackets off-shore and we do a swim check with a lifejacket on. We are looking for comfort in the water.”
It’s a true summer camp experience
Sailing is at its core, but sailing camp is about having fun, too. “In the mornings, we learn about how to sail, then we all set up the boats and go out sailing until lunchtime. We have lunch on shore and then we go swimming just for fun. In the afternoon, we sail again and then we put everything away,” Ellison says.
“We have a pirate contest every week. We do a version of Pirate Idol and tell stories and dress up. We have talent shows so kids can share magic tricks, jokes or dances, which makes it really fun for the kids,” says Ellison. “The kids go home smiling and that’s important to us.”
In every way, PSEF’s sailing camp is safe
From stringent safety protocols to social distancing, PSEF sailing camp is a safe place for kids to spend their time this summer. All coaches are avid sailors and the camp follows all CDC, state and local guidelines for safety. “Last year we had a super successful summer, with 300 kids in our camps with no COVID cases. We operate safely and follow all mandates,” he says.
Learn more about The Pontiac Sailing Education Foundation Junior Sailing Program at Pontiac Yacht Club and register for camp at psef54.org.