Young yachtie feels her way in the water


Fair wind: Blind Sailor Latisha Davenport with instructor Trudy Clarke. Picture: Gary Sissons

A GRAND feeling of “independence” is a motivating factor in getting out on the water for blind sailor Latisha Davenport.

An enthusiastic participant in Rye Primary School’s sailing program, Latisha said she “loves feeling the wind in my face”.

The grade 6 pupil has been a regular at the helm, piloting her borrowed OziOpti dinghy in the calm waters off Rye sailing club.

She handles the main sheet and the tiller, but receives a little help from instructor Trudy Clarke in handling the centre board. Mostly the weather has been fine and warm, but one day last week it was “pretty rough”.

“This boat is the same as used by other pupils, with the only modification a noodle on the boom to soften any bumps to her head,” Ms Clarke said.

The nine-year-old sailing program involves almost all of the Rye grade 6 pupils. This year, 60 children took part on Tuesdays over five weeks for two hours.

The Rye Primary program is one of many that the club has run through its sailing school. Last summer more than 180 enrolled, with two groups running regularly on Saturdays and four more on Sunday mornings.

School groups also come from Dromana Secondary College and small rural schools in the King Valley, south of Wangaratta.

Junior and youth development squad coaching programs this summer pushed club enrolments to more than 200.

“We are one of the smaller clubs on the peninsula, but we have grown over the past nine years through increasing our local community involvement in sailing,” coordinator Bob Cooper said.

“We have also won a number of awards from Yachting Victoria and, more recently, Australian Sailing, for the programs we run and for the volunteer workers at our club.

“We are lucky to have strong support from volunteer instructors and coaches.”

For Latisha, there’s only one negative: “I’m a bit disappointed that next week is the final week of the sailing program,” she said.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 21 March 2017