A few weeks ago I received an invite to attend the Kerala Watersports Sailing Organisation Certificate Awards. I’d already met Captain Jolly Thomas who is the man responsible for teaching young children how to sail their little, second-hand Optimist dinghies. In a country that has no real sailing heritage and with next to no funds Jolly has achieved the near-impossible by creating a small but successful sailing club for children. Set up as a charitable organisation the least I could do was attend the ceremony and maybe invite a couple of other western sailors to join me. Terry of ‘Roam II’ and Brian and Maureen of ‘Suryana’ came along to give their support.
We were surprised to find that the club’s location was at the back of the incredible premises of the Sacred Heart College. The college had kindly allowed the sailing club to base itself on the river and even gave Jolly permission to build his own slip, allowing him to easily launch the dinghies. The river front was lined with coconut palm and between it and the college was a football pitch. By the end of the afternoon there were two football matches, a cricket match and a male dance troupe practising their moves, all on the grounds of the college. Milling around too were the tallest Indians I’ve seen, all taking part in a basket ball tournament. Sport was clearly the order of the day at Sacred Heart so Jolly had bagged the perfect location.
Upon arrival I was immediately taken out onto the water in a strange contraption Jolly uses to follow the children when sailing. Made of two surfboards stuck together with a metal framework it has an outboard on the back and makes for a fun way to cruise round the river. We got plenty of shots of the kids sailing, who all demonstrated excellent sailing skills.
At 5pm there was a presentation and Jose, our marina manager, made a short speech. I hadn’t realised that he was president of this organisation. Then I got a surprise when I too was asked to give a speech! I simply commented on how encouraging it was to see both boys and girls getting into sailing at such an early age and that we would be here to give them our support wherever possible. I presented one of the children with a bound copy of our sailing articles and they asked Terry and me to sign it. Very sweet.
It’s great to see young children getting active and taking part in competitive sport but the real heroes are Jolly and his wife who work almost full-time for this charitable organisation. Good work.