Finding your Sea Legs
Sarah Heron takes her family for a week of dinghy sailing in Menorca and looks at the best learn-to-sail options for little ones:
'Ten years ago, I married a sailor. Summer weekends were spent pottering happily on our tiny yacht; then two babies arrived in quick succession and our peaceful weekends at anchor were suddenly taken over by nappies, sleep deprivation and takeaways on the sofa. Fast-forward seven years, and with nappies behind us, it was time to teach the children (and me) how to dinghy sail.
Learning in a cold English sea was, we felt, guaranteed to put them off for life. To start our dinghy sailing journey, our wish list was: warm water, short-haul flight, good food and a resort dedicated to sailing. With my fledgling sailing skills long forgotten, I was keen for some adult lessons while the children learned, and my husband was keen to race with fellow (good) sailors.
Minorca Sailing ticked every box. Based in a sheltered bay and overlooking a nature reserve close to the pretty town of Fornells, they have taken over a beautiful and secluded stretch of beach in the sleepy village of Ses Salines, Menorca. There are plenty of accommodation options, from the sociable Mistral villas around a large shared pool, to the self-contained villas on the seafront or in the village. We chose Amarres, a villa apartment with its own pool, seconds from the kids’ club, beach and the immaculately kept dinghies and wind-surfers. Minorca Sailing’s kit is second to none and most of it is new each year. They are a dedicated sailing school so every level of sailing is catered for, from beginners’ lessons (which I joined) to advanced Lasers. After the morning’s instruction, there is racing every afternoon which culminates in an all-inclusive regatta at the end of each week.
Daisy (7) was in the Explorers club and Martha (5) joined the Pirates. They came back after their rst day full of excitement: “I saw a ship-wreck,” said Martha on her dinghy trip, and Daisy got to grips with tacking on the simulator before taking to the waves. Day two, and Daisy sailed out on her own Pico while Martha balanced on the ‘wobble board’ – the first step towards windsurfing on mini-boards. Children younger than 4 are looked after in the crèche on the sea-front by a team of nannies, so adults can have a full day on the water or relaxing in their villa.
I set off somewhat apprehensively for my beginners’ dinghy sailing class. I needn’t have worried – our teacher was an extremely patient and very kind girl who’d sailed all her life. After a confidence-building briefing we were all sailing our own dinghies, practising tacking, and working out where the wind came from like pros (or so we hoped!)
Daisy and Martha skipped happily into their morning and afternoon sessions (we all met back at the villa for lunch and a swim). Each session they learned something new, and between them they sailed Tera dinghies ‘on a string’, embarked on a destination sail to nearby ‘Zombie island’ (an idyllic island in the bay with a stunning beach), learned to capsize safely, used the trapeze and went on treasure hunts. It was all about having fun on the water and, most importantly, they were looked after by a young, hands-on team who couldn’t have been more encouraging. Each of their groups had no more than five children with at least three instructors so they were surrounded by expert sailors who struck just the right balance between sea-themed arts and crafts and packing in a huge amount of instruction. The daily sessions end at 4.30 and there’s the option of booking an extra, one- on-one lesson for everyone. Daisy went for windsurfing lessons and within seconds was standing up on the mini board effortlessly. Best of all, falling in is fun when the sea is warm! Mid-way through the week, the team show a video at the local restaurant so you can see exactly what your children have been doing. Daisy had learned to capsize and use the hull as a water slide, and watching her tack round a course by herself was a magical moment for us, as was seeing Martha happily sailing out with her instructor, helming a tiny Pico dinghy.
Most evenings, the kids’ instructors organised something for the children, from quizzes while we chatted to the other guests over a glass of Sangria, to our favourite, the Beach Olympics which included a hilarious limbo contest. On the last day, we took the children out ourselves on an RS Venture. Martha was keen to show us a beach she had visited so we set off with Daisy at the helm tacking brilliantly while we crewed for her. Throughout the week, we watched their confidence growing both on and off the water. We now have two sailing-mad children and I’m a proud holder of the RYA level 1 certificate. Mission accomplished!'
Sarah Heron travelled with Minorca Sailing. From £6,970 for a family of four in a s/c villa
Push the boat out at these dedicated sailing resorts
Resorts in Greece, Sardinia and Corsica with childcare from 2+. Comp sailing/windsurfing lessons from 6, or children can join the RYA Youth scheme training for an extra £50. Adult options incl RYA qualifications, intro to racing and spinnakers. From £579 per adult, £519 per child half board, incl flights, sailing and windsur ng lessons, tennis, tness classes, childcare from ages 2+. markwarner.co.uk
Children’s sailing lessons from 8 in Mini Club Med at their Sandpiper (Florida) and Gregolimano (Greece) resorts, as well as childcare from 4 months. All-inclusive (including sailing lessons) 7-night holiday at Gregolimano from £1,379 per adult and £856 per child including flights, children under 4 stay free. clubmed.co.uk
Dinghy sailing at nine beach-clubs in Greece, Croatia and Sardinia with group tuition and adult RYA incl. Children aged 13+ can join adults programme. Dinghy sailing is one of many activities on offer in their kids’ club, separate tuition available for ages 8–13 on their ‘Hot Shots’ programme, RYA Youth Sailing Awards with quali ed RYA instructors. £ From £1,917 for a family of four p/wk at Alana Beachclub in Paklenica, Croatia inc flights, t/fers, club board, a range of inclusive activities and free children’s clubs for ages 2+. Hotshots £175 per wk. neilson.co.uk
Children’s tuition from aged 4+, group or 1:1. Great kit including Lasers and several types of RS dinghies. All instructors are RYA or equivalent qualified and the emphasis is on fun and building confidence. Adults lessons available. From £4,142 p/wk in villa for 4 incl Club membership, all sailing/windsurfing. peligoni.com
Nonsuch Bay, Antigua
Stay in beachfront suites or villas and learn to sail in an idyllic Antiguan bay. With a large fleet of dinghies children aged 4–7 learn key beginner skills incl launching, capsize recovery and returning to shore. More experienced sailors learn racing techniques and handling. 7 nights all-incl from £916 p/p for a family of 4 incl watersports, kids’ club, drinks, f/bd, excl flights. nonsuchbayresort.com
a&u Greek favourite Sani Resort recently launched a dedicated Sani Sailing Academy. Children aged 6–14 can join Optimist sailing courses, ages 14+ learn Laser sailing, both for 3 hours per day over 3 days. From 198 per night at Sani Beach staying in a Family Room on a half-board basis. Optimist and Laser sailing courses € 270 per child. sani-resort.com