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Virtual Learning with Blind Sailing UK.

A blog about how Blind Sailing UK kept inspiring and teaching when we were not able to be together and do what we all love best getting out on the water. I would like to start this blog by thanking all our amazing volunteers who give up their time to support the team’s development.

Right from the start of the lockdown we have been continually supported by emails, virtual social events and training sessions delivered by professionals who gave up their time. We had talks by inspirational sailors as well as coaching covering topics from weather to the basics of sailing with a spinnaker and anything in between, the team made sure there was something for everyone.

Then added into this busy schedule, a start sailing course lead by our very own Lucy Hodges (Commodore of Blind Sailing UK.) At one point in this time of uncertainty and worry I think I was meeting with blind sailing in some way or another four times a week 😊

I really enjoyed the start sailing course, it is designed to engage with new and beginner sailor’s and break down barriers. I have been training with Blind Sailing for about 3 years now but am always grateful to revisit the basics of sailing and the different parts of a boat. The inventiveness of Lucy is amazing and each session she would get the participants to use different house-hold items in a variety of different ways to illustrate in a tactile and practical way what she was explaining. An example was to use a dinner plate as a clock face and taking a pen or pencil lie it vertically in the centre of the plate dividing it in to two left and right or to use the more correct terminology (port and starboard).

Still with me? Now we had to pretend that the wind was blowing from the top of our plate towards us and we were trying to sail up wind. Next we moved the pen’s tip to the two o’clock position meaning that the heading of our pretend boat the pen had changed to show us that we were in theory sailing on a port tack compared to when the pen was at the twelve o’clock position on the plate meaning our boat was directly head to wind the sails would be flapping and it would be going nowhere. Using this thinking out of the box method really helped me cement basic wind angles in my mind, I’ve come to realise that once you have got the solid foundations you can build further blocks of knowledge therefore creating depth of understanding that can be later backed up by practical experience out on the water.

In the last training session, we were learning how to tie some knots. Although we did not manage to get through everything Lucy had planned to teach, we had started so this was progress. If you can put yourself in the place of the trainers who are also visually impaired trying to simultaneously explain in detail how we should hold the rope/string/whatever we were using as a learning aid whilst trying to look at multiple images of us poised to attempt to somewhat successfully follow instructions.

This was not a failure it just took several attempts and different ways of explaining what to do and we finally got there. This kind of task would ordinarily have been done at a training session when volunteers could be hands on and be able to guide the learner’s hands through what the knot looked like before they would attempt it themselves, but we had great laugh getting into knots.

One of our newest trainees who has yet to meet us in person and find out how fun being on the water is, is Chris, when I asked him to sum up his thoughts about joining the team virtually, he said,

“When you think about learning sailing, it doesn’t strike you as

something you can do remotely, on dry land in a virtual meeting.

However, I think it worked surprisingly well. I learned a lot about the

general techniques, aspects of how the different types of boats react and

how visually impaired and blind sailors can crew a boat.

The plate and pen.

Although I have been on a sailing boat a long time ago at school, it was

only on a couple of occasions and to be honest we did not get much chance

to learn a lot about how to operate them. I still need to work on tying

a reef knot but it has been fun.

It has been great to join calls with others new to sailing and hear from

more experienced sailors from all round the country. An accomplished

blind sailing friend has been nagging me for ages to give it a go. I am

glad I joined and look forward to getting on the water.”

In these different times the learning has kept me active and joining calls and having a laugh while learning has been grea.

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