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I have decided to get into sailing, to attend a course and maybe obtain a boat license…. Oh no, I can’t, not now… or maybe I can….At least in part!

We have already talked about that: this emergency is destroying our boating season.

Summer cruises will be very probably cancelled, while local regattas and big international regattas are being cancelled one after the other. The latest is the Palermo-Montecarlo 2020, cancelled some days ago. The Olimpic Games in Tokio have been postponed to 2021 and the America’s Cup World Series in Cagliari has been cancelled these days.

What a desolation!  The provisions in force have hit boat industry hard, causing despair among the hundreds of thousands of sailing enthusiasts and a strong concern in the tens of thousands of workers in the sector. This is affecting shipyards, port facilities, sailmakers, nautical brokers and charters.

However, even in this black picture, some have managed to carve out a small space of normality. Based on the new methods and tools schools and universities are necessarily developing, also the nautical sector is experiencing the so called distance learning. Online courses have been launched where the teacher interacts with each single student during video-link lessons and monitors their improvements.

Of course, distance learning courses cannot be welcomed as a new idea: dozens of DVD publications or interactive tutorials on YouTube were already available in the international publishing scene. Courses for any subjects dedicated to amateurs of all kinds have been sold for decades. And sailing is not exception at all. Some of them are of excellent quality, all of them are, however, lacking with regards to spontaneity and action in the teaching-learning process.

So, what is new are the 2.0 classes, whose keywords are highest simplicity and flexibility, easy handling and effectiveness. The student will be sent the teaching material at home or provided online and that’s it, ready to go. You just needs a computer with a webcam or any smart device (phone or tablet) and a decent Internet connection.

No special program to be downloaded, no informatic skills required, no crashing official websites. Everything is simple, plug and play but definitely effective.

We called around to understand how this new learning mode is affecting schools and how students are reacting. A wide variety of learning opportunities is available on the net, for all levels: from Facebook live to individual or group conference calls. However, all agreed that they are working effectively.

The words of Stefano Raschio from the Genoese nautical school Andareavela (www.andareavela.it) are marked by optimism. He and his partner Pierpaola Bertagni once  acknowledged the new situation have – as is usually said – turned the problem into an opportunity, showing a certain pragmatism typical of people living in this part of Italy.

Within a very short period they have moved online all the courses of their school immediately meeting with great interest among students and aspiring masters. <<No particular problem >> says Stefano, <<Our courses normally take place in a classroom, either individually or in a group. A webcam connection was enough to recreate the same immediacy. This new learning mode has been very well welcomed and accepted by our students so teaching discontinuity has been avoided >>.

Alessando Cerulli from Vivere la Vela (viverelavela.com), who has been organizing courses in Milan since 1983 is on the same wavelength. Being forced to give up all the activities in the nautical centre, the school has focused on the development of online courses using the Zoom platform we keep hearing about at the moment. <<We have made a virtue of necessity and, as a point of reference for our students, are trying to keep alive their love for the sea, waiting to be allowed  to sail again >> comments Alessandro thinking about the future opportunities of these teaching modalities, which are now exceptional but nothing prevents them in future from becoming of common use in Italian nautical education.

There is to say that although distance learning is meeting an urgent and practical need, it is unlikely that this may now become the norm in the Italian nautical schools as it has been authorized on a provisional basis and due to the emergency. Boat licence courses, in fact, require class attendance of both the students and the trainer. It is unlikely that the present derogation may become the rule. However, “general” courses may be seen in a totally different light as they can find in the online mode a valid alternative.

In the spirit of online education and training an interesting initiative launched by the Italian Sailing Federation is worth noting: an interzonal e-sailing trophy taking place in each of the 15 areas of activity of the Federation in Italy. It is called Thousand for a Sailing as it aims to involve up to 1000 virtual sailors throughout Italy using the Virtual Regatta Inshore technology platform, already known to sailing enthusiasts.

<<Virtual sailing is thrilling because it contains some basic elements of sailing: tactic, strategy, choice of sails, rules… In these days when all our members are at home, this event is turning out to be one of the healthiest ways to remind us of our passion for the most beautiful sport in the world!>> says FIV President Francesco Ettorre in presenting the event.

So, is everything OK? Well, not exactly. Of course, sea trips have to be postponed, but, considering the present lockdown, this can be seen as a considerable step forwards as well as an attempt of adaptation.

One thing is certain: this emergency which has forced us to suddenly and traumatically change our daily routine, is, on the other hand, also offering some important signs we should learn to interpret to start to rethink the foundations of our patterns of life.

To make an example, air pollution reduction is an established fact and we should reflect on how badly we affect the ecosystem. And smart working may suggest it’s time to rethink our homes, our workplaces and our movements.

 

Also we, as sea lovers, may play our part to deserve our place in society and in the mankind.

But, for the moment, let’s stay at home.

Renzo Crovo
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