Training for Training's Sake

I was interested to read a letter in Yachting Monthly this month commenting on a couple who sailed to the Caribbean without even knowing how to sail! They learned sailing and navigation as they went along and arrived safely. I have lived and worked in the Caribbean and can attest to the fact that it is full of people who should not be there, who before GPS, probably would not (and probably could not) have crossed the Channel but now call themselves ‘navigators’ and ocean sailors.

Firstly crossing oceans is [relatively] easy and safe, there is nothing to hit and very little to do. The problems arise at each end when there is coastal navigation and pilotage to do, buoyage and collision regs. to be observed and close quarters boat handling to be done. For the most part I sail in Brittany, France where I get to watch boat handling at first hand every day from a sailing community where training is definitely not part of the culture. I have come to the opinion that French yachtsmen are either the best in the world or the worst with emphasis definitely on the worst. It is an every day scene to watch people who have probably been sailing most if not all of their lives to come into a marina berth with no ropes prepared, often no fenders, where the crew leap onto the pontoon to fend off and then try to hold the boat while untangling a rope and cleating it on and securing it to the dock and and ............... And don't even get me onto to the subject of rafting and shore lines!! It was summed up this week by a French student I had on board who commented that “they don't even realise that they are doing anything wrong”. I contrast this to UK yachtsmen and women that I see coming into the marinas around here where even, obviously fairly novice yachties, generally have enough training and perhaps self respect to execute a half decent arrival. That is not to say they don’t mess up at times, we all do that regardless of our level of training but the preparation and training shows. I am not saying all this by way of bashing the French more showing the pitfalls of a culture that does not seem to value training for training's sake. My students are more or less 50. 50. English/French. The big difference being that 99% of my French students come to me to do the Yachtmaster (with a view to being professional

yachtsmen) and firmly believe they are at that level when in reality they would struggle with Day Skipper! I have even had two Yachtmaster candidates who are ‘instructors’ for a long established and well respected French sea school who were anything but Yachtmasters! It is almost unheard of for me to get a French beginner. In comparison 99% of my UK students are beginners, most of whom go on to build their skill sets with further training.

I was most saddened by the final sentence in the letter that said “It looks like the Yachtmaster is so last year.”

Do we really want to end up with a culture that doesn't value training?

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