Kids overcome fear factor to sail with Olympians


One youngster declares that he's "terrified" and grips the side of the boat so tightly his knuckles turn white but by the end he doesn't want to get off.

Alex Maloney taking school children for a sail at the Viaduct Harbour during the Volvo Ocean Race stopover. 

"That was awesome," he enthuses. "Can I go again?"

His reaction is not uncommon.

Yachting New Zealand are offering people the chance to go sailing during the three-week Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Auckland. As many as 3500 are expected to have a go at the Viaduct Harbour and for many it's their first time in a yacht.

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, along with their coach Nathan Hadley, took school children sailing today and it's an experience the Rio Olympic silver medallists say they get just as much enjoyment out of it.

"It's a privilege [to take them sailing]," Maloney said. "It's their first time experiencing something pretty cool so to be able to share that with them is fun. I'm always surprised how excited they are. Because we do it daily, we take it for granted and forget that it's actually pretty cool. They are always a lot more excited than you expect and that's quite contagious. It's really good energy. 

"Some are a bit nervous. If you're not brought up around the ocean, it's understandable. One of the kids I took out was a bit water shy and you could tell he wasn't in his comfort zone but this is a great initiation. He was pretty stoked at the end."

If being in the hands of Olympians isn't enough, there's plenty more inspiration to be found at the Viaduct Harbour. Not far away, the Volvo Ocean Race boats are on display as they are checked over before the next leg across the Southern Ocean and wandering around the village are some of the best ocean sailors in the world, including Kiwis Blair Tuke, Brad Farrand and Bianca Cook.

Maloney grew up around boats, even spending some of her childhood sailing around the world, and hopes some of those she takes out will want to try sailing again.

"I think they should go down to their local yacht club and try to get involved in a learn to sail programme," she said. "We have some really amazing ones right throughout New Zealand so we are pretty lucky. Get involved, make friends and just enjoy the sport."

Anyone interested in going sailing at the Viaduct Harbour during the Volvo Ocean Race stopover needs to register on site at the race village. Look out for the blue container in the plaza next to the Viaduct Events Centre.

It's free and Yachting New Zealand will provide all equipment, including lifejackets and the Topaz Omega boats which can accommodate four adults. 

27 Feb 2018
02 Mar 2018