Sailing club tacks on international element

Published 11:25 am Sunday, August 9, 2009

Special to the Daily News

The Little Washington Sailing Club has gone international, welcoming two international students for one of its two-week sailing courses.
Jack Kontouris, 14, of London and Leandra Peter, 13, of Zurich, Switzerland, received their diplomas Friday after successfully completing the two week-long course, which began July 27.
The course, which focused on basic sailing techniques, was divided into classroom lessons and hands-on training on the Pamlico River off Washington’s waterfront.
Jack, or “Mr. London” as he was called by his classmates, had previous sailing experience in his native London; last year, he participated in a sailing camp with the Eaton Square School.
The striking difference between the two programs was the weather, he said.
“It was cold and the water was rough on the Thames,” Jack said. “Here it’s sunny, calm and warm.”
Jack’s parents balance their time between Washington and London, and they have a house on the water in Washington Park. That’s where Jack plans to put his newly learned skills to use.
“They taught us how to sail, and how to tie four important knots for sailing,” Jack said.
His grandmother was present, along with his mother and aunt, for his graduation from the course. Jack’s grandmother is looking forward to Jack taking her out on the water for the first time.
Leandra said she enjoyed a similar experience with the program.
She has been to Washington many times with her British-born mother, Julie, and her mother’s boyfriend, who is a Washington native.
Although sailing is a popular pastime in her native Switzerland, this was Leandra’s first time sailing.
“I had never done it before; it’s too expensive in Switzerland,” Leandra said.
Leandra, who speaks German and fluent English, had no trouble understanding her instructor.
“Some of the knots were difficult to understand,” she explained. “But I enjoyed it a lot, and enjoyed the friendly people.”
Sailing instructor Eve Robitaille is not unaccustomed to instructing international students.
“Earlier this summer, we had a boy from Japan with us,” Robitaille said. “He was visiting his grandmother in town.”
Most of the program’s international students come to the area to visit relatives living in or around Washington, Robitaille said.
“The language barrier has never been an issue; all of the kids have been able to speak English very well,” she said.
“Although, boating terms are a language of their own, and can be difficult for anyone,” Robitaille adds.
Robitaille loves what international students bring to the course.
“I love the diversity; they bring such different cultures,” she said.
Now that the course is over, Jack will return to London, and Leandra will return to Zurich, taking their newly learned skills with them.
“I now feel confident on a boat,” Jack said.
“I would do it all again,” Leandra added.