ALVADORE – Eugene Rec’s sailing program has always been a unique offering.
Not all municipalities are blessed with a 9,360-acre reservoir 20 minutes from town after all.
“(Fern Ridge Reservoir) is kind of an undiscovered jewel,” Eugene Rec sailing instructor Chris Thomas said. “I think it’s the best place in Oregon to sail, if you ask me, for certain types of boats.”
This summer, though, the River House Outdoor Center has had to get creative to get any boats out on the water. Like the rest of Recreation, the River House has overhauled its summer camps to make sure they’re safe and following the sanitization and physical distancing protocols put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“On the plus side,” Thomas said, “when you’re on the water you’re naturally physically distanced because if you’re close enough to another boat to contract COVID, you’re close to crashing.”
That may be a little tongue in cheek, but we’re serious about our campers safety in Eugene Rec. That’s why our camps this summer have all put in place stringent measures to keep our kids and instructors safe. It’s no different for an upcoming camp the River House is excited to offer: Beginner Family Sail Camp.
The camp, which takes the usual learn to sail program and tweaks it, allows two family members to share a 12-foot RS Feva for the week. Ideally with a sibling, campers will receive coaching, build sailing skills and have social connections with fellow campers throughout the week.
“It’s not going to be quite as robust of a program but having a program at all to get people out sailing is vitally important,” Thomas said. “I think that people are desperate to recreate and if we can come up with a program where we can safely do it, we need to try.”
Providing kids with ways to safely recreate outside this summer has been an important factor in Eugene Rec’s reopening plan. That’s why the first offerings from the division were childcare and summer camps. More than most, two of our sailing instructors know how important these opportunities are. Without them they wouldn’t have found their passion.
Emily Avey and Anastasia Kaurova both attended sailing camps with Eugene Rec and now are helping teach others. Avey, 17, is in her second year with Rec, and Kaurova, 16, is starting her first year.
“Hopefully if it’s something you enjoy it’s something you can enjoy for years,” Kaurova said, “and maybe one day you can even become an instructor like I did.”
Avey started sailing with her father and went to camps through the Eugene Yacht Club, where Rec’s camps are based. She then attended Rec sailing camps before being told she would make a great instructor despite her age. This year she’s taking a U.S. Sailing instructors course. She’s also an accomplished racer who is currently the Eugene Yacht Club champion. The Club comes up with a champion from each type of boat based on the amount of races they’ve won. Then it pits the champions of each fleet in a race in small boats. Avey won the youth championship then beat all the older sailors for the club title.
“Being young and a woman it’s a lot different,” Avey said. “I sail with a bunch of old guys. But once I sailed with them and proved that I could beat them there’s a lot more respect there.”
Kaurova also discovered her love for sailing on the waters of Fern Ridge. She started attending the Full Moon Rising camp with Rec when she was seven and went to her first sailing camp when she was 11. At first, she wasn’t sure about it but her brother said he enjoyed it.
“I’ve really enjoyed sailing, too,” Kaurova said. “I was always afraid to come back because I thought I would lose my skills when I came back the next summer, but every year I came back and I enjoyed my time on the water. It all becomes muscle memory when you’re out there and you start enjoying it more, especially when you have some good wind.”
Kaurova volunteered with the sailing program last year to get an idea of what it takes to be an instructor and this year she was able to get a job. Knowing what it’s like to be a camper, she said this will be a good camp for parents hesitant about sending their kids out.
“This is a really good place to get your kids out and about,” Kaurova said. “Especially during the summer. And since they’re going to be in sibling pairs on a boat, they won’t be that near other kids. It’s a really safe way to get them outside.”
Avey echoes that statement. They’re trying something new this year to be able to offer youth sailing. All “classroom” time will be out in the grass next to the water’s edge with a white board, and all sanitization and physical distancing protocols will be followed. She’s confident even with the changes that campers will have a great time.
“There’s something empowering about taking a group of kids who know nothing about sailing and then by the end of the week they’re speaking the lingo and sailing the boat,” Avey said. “It’s just amazing that they can do that in a week.”