Barcelona settles a debt with sailing

Today is the turn of the sixth grade students from the Manyanet school in the Sant Andreu neighborhood.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
24 March 2024 Sunday 10:29
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Barcelona settles a debt with sailing

Today is the turn of the sixth grade students from the Manyanet school in the Sant Andreu neighborhood. They have exchanged class for the sea. You kill them for the helm. “We were able to drive!” Aïna shouts excitedly as she sets foot on the ground again. It's all laughter and comments. Even Paola, who has become dizzy, is ecstatic. “They always have a great time; The objective is for them to enjoy their first contact with sailing and the sea... the majority have never sailed...", comments one of the monitors of the Viu la Vela program, through which 7,000 girls and boys will pass during this course. of 128 public and subsidized schools in Barcelona.

Day in and day out, the Ludic collective dinghy sailing boats – with six children and an instructor on board – sail off the beaches of Barcelona. This is how the city addresses one of its pending issues: the lack of contact of its citizens with the sea, its glaring deficit of sailors. The Viu la Vela program, which the celebration of the America's Cup has given a definitive boost, aims to fill this gap among the youngest. “We don't like to call it a 'baptism', it's more of a 'tasting', a way to try and invite you to continue,” maintains Inés Vizcarro, director of the Catalan Sailing Federation and one of the promoters of the program, which started last year. in 37 schools, it has continued this year in 128 more centers and will continue next year. Registration for the 2024-2025 academic year has just opened.

“Viu la Vela will continue until there is no longer political will, for us it is a strategic program; We have set a first objective to reach 17,000 children but the intention is to continue,” says the sports councilor, David Escudé. For now, the municipal commitment has translated into an investment of three million euros, mainly to buy the boats in which the practical session is taught, 32 in total, 28 Ludic and four sailing adapted for students with disabilities.

This collective boat, the Ludic, is designed to be able to navigate easily with two or three people but can comfortably accommodate up to nine crew members. The new boats have been distributed among the five sailing schools participating in the program: the Reial Club Nàutic de Barcelona, ​​the Club Natació de Barcelona, ​​the Reial Club Marítim de Barcelona, ​​the Center Municipal Vela and the Barcelona International Sailing Center ( BISC), located practically under the photovoltaic pergola of the Fòrum, from where Manyanet students leave today.

In this Sant Andreu school there are three sixth grade classes and they have been divided into three two-hour shifts (from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.). “For them it is a very positive experience, they leave the classroom and discover an area that the vast majority have never touched,” says Eira, one of the tutors. “It flew by!” When they leave the sailboat, Roger, Pol and Álvaro, the only one who had sailed before, agree: “We spend the summer in Calafell and in the summer I go to a seaside resort,” she says. “How lucky!” Replies Pol as he takes off the mandatory life jacket. Some have also put on a wetsuit, but it is optional.

In this two-hour practical session, students learn about the different parts of the sailboat, learn to position themselves in the marine environment and control the rudder. However, they received their first notions before going sailing at their school, in a theoretical session. Among the professionals who teach this first class are sailors such as Cristina Pujol, Ricard Castellví or Món Cañellas; sports meteorologist Enric Agud; the sports judge Maggie Alonso and the director and coordinators Òscar Trives, Farah Mohand and Elena Moreno. “We wanted to approach it in an attractive and dynamic way, to awaken interest in sailing, to make them want to continue...”, says Inés Vizcarro.

The program has also served to encourage the training of more than 120 young people from Barcelona and the metropolitan area as sailing instructors and coaches. “Without them, Viu la Vela could not be implemented, which requires a monitor on each boat,” says Escudé. Scholarships that cover up to the entire course have been activated and a job bank has been opened. Being 16 years old and ESO are the only requirements that are requested. The cycle (the next registrations will open next April) is taught at the BISC itself and prepares these teenagers to be introductory sailing instructors, an introductory coach to competition in dinghy sailing and windsurfing and they can also obtain the basic navigation pattern title (PNB).

“The city has historically lived with its back to the sea and with this program we turned it into a large blue pavilion,” insists the councilor. The America's Cup, the Viu la Vela and the promotion of this sport are beginning to bear some fruit: "We are having more registrations than ever in the Easter festivals for nautical sports with sailing, paddle surfing, windsurfing or caiac," says Vizcarro. .