The partnership between the Festival of Sails and Variety, the Children’s Charity is giving disadvantaged and special needs children the chance to taste a little of what is going on further out in Corio Bay.
While the 3000 or so yachties are mixing it up out in the Bay on the penultimate day of competition, others such as the Pearson family of 10 children, are thrilled to have their first sailing experience off Eastern Beach next to Royal Geelong Yacht Club, the Festival’s host club.
For the second year, Variety, a national not-for-profit organisation empowering children who are sick, disadvantaged or who have special needs, is the Festival’s charity of choice and for the first time, the Come and Try Sailing program has been opened up to Variety families.
The Pearsons’ 10 children are aged 15 to one with two boys and eight girls including the last board, Zahlee, who is undiagnosed but falls under the cerebral palsy umbrella.
All 10 children hit the beach this morning, most donning life jackets to try sailing an Optimist dinghy under the expert tutelage of an instructor.
'The kids love the water and they are confident, this is teaching them about the sea and how to read the water,' said John.
He’s happy to talk about being the head of a large family, 'I always wanted a big family, but that’s it for us,' said the retail manager.
'It adds a whole new meaning to ‘witching hour,’' he laughed, referring to that time in the early evening when dinner is being prepared and the house is humming with activity.
Variety Victoria events manager, Janette Connolly, said, 'We are very grateful to the Festival of Sails for their continued support of Variety and the Variety Splash.
'Thanks to the support of the Victorian boating community we have been able to help many Victorian yacht clubs with their Sailability and Tackers programs, which have been a great way to get children with special needs and disabilities out on the water.'
Festival of Sails event manager Bianca Garo has coordinated the families participating in the Try Sailing Program and after a flurry of phone calls was able to introduce children’s entertainer Justine Clark to some of the Variety children this morning.
'It’s a wonderful way to introduce Variety families to sailing at the Festival of Sails. Their faces coming off the water says it all, and those who met Justine were ecstatic,' said Bianca.
'It’s also great to see a number of our Splashers enjoying the Festival,' she added.