The world of sailing grows larger every day, and, like many other areas of India, children in the Tamil Nadu capital city of Chennai (ex-Madras, on India's south eastern coast) have taken up sailing in a big way.
The Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA) is overwhelmed by the kind of response it has received for its seven-day summer camp, which begins today. The camp is open for children between 7-12 years of age and the course fee is Rs 4,500 per child.
'The number of interested persons has already exceeded the maximum number of children we can accommodate in a camp. So, we are planning to conduct more camps this summer,' said a committee member.
The children will be trained inside Chennai harbour in protected waters.
'It takes 2-3 months for a child to handle small boats independently. Till such time, we don’t allow them to sail in the ocean,' said Capt Ravikumar Manian, in-charge of TNSA activities.
He said sailing was an adventure sport and carries risks but they are easily addressed by using right precautions like wearing a good-fitting life jacket and always sailing under the supervision of rescue boats.
According to him, the summer camps are the best place for children and their parents to experience the sport and plan a career.
'Though I put my daughter into sailing a few months before the summer camp, she was like on and off training with no big interest. But when she trained continuously for seven days during the summer camp, she fell in love with the sport,' said Mr Gautam Padmanabhan, who has turned down good job offers from bigger cities to stay put in Chennai.
From a summer camp student in 2007, 13-year-old Varsha Gautam has today emerged as a champion in the under-16 national event and has already represented the country at the world championship in the optimist class. Mr Gautam said he could see the boost in the confidence level of his daughter as her career graph grows.
'The sport helps in developing quick thinking as it is the child who takes all the final decisions in water eventhough guidance will be given from outside,' said Capt Ravikumar.
'Though an individualistic sport, it will also help the child bond with people as the sport requires one to communicate with different members, including boat handlers, rescue team and trainers,' he added.
India has a long and picturesque coastline, with plenty of good harbours and bays. Maybe it won't be long before Indian cruising sailors are exploring further and the Indian boat flag is found with other cruising sailing countries' flags in ports around the world.