The founders of the «Friendly Regatta» Sergey and Nina Sinitsyna in an interview with Insailing about the success story of children’s regattas and dispelling the myth of the impossibility of vacation with children.
Why and how does the «Friendly Regatta» draw strangers together?
First of all, this is about getting to know people and selecting the crew. From my experience, I try to put people on the boat so that everyone is comfortable and has fun. And for different families, these are different criteria. For example, if there are people who stick to a healthy lifestyle, I try to put them together. For some, it’s important that there are peer children on the boat. Sometimes I meet with families and understand that the most important thing is for a mom to feel comfortable.
Children sail only with their parents. If the skipper wants to go with his children, then they must be over nine years old. We try to ensure that the skippers work for a week on their own, and a week with the family and that there is a wife on board, otherwise it is difficult for them. There is always a co-skipper in the flotilla who can be a replacement.
We have skippers, and there are counselors, these are teachers and psychologists, in every children’s flotilla there is a doctor. Now we have decided that the counselor should be on each boat. This is also from experience — although the crossings at family regattas are small, no more than three hours, we saw that children do not receive the necessary attention.
Some believe that you cannot relax with children. But we are setting up the process so that the parents also rest. Counselors take their children and give parents the opportunity to be together. Moreover, for adults, we have a special program during the regatta. For children, there is also a program for each day with rules. For example, on Tuesday or Wednesday, we have a very emotional day. We’re having a big party together. After that, the energy goes down. Then we set aside free time to relax from each other so that families can separate and walk around the city by themselves. On Thursday, we make a «star» and a disco on the water. On Friday, a «secret friend» is revealed. This is our tradition, similar to «secret Santa.» At the beginning of the regatta, everyone draws lots with a person for whom, during the entire regatta, you make pleasant surprises. Adults made coffee, brought croissants for breakfast, and handed a glass of prosecco to their secret friends in the evening. Or during the crossing via the walkie-talkie, they asked me to say hi from a secret friend with wishes a good mood for the day. Both children and adults are eagerly involved in this game. The meeting with the «secret friend» takes place before the ceremony of presenting log books — books about the end of the regatta with a record of sailing experience. Everyone stands in a circle and says what present they received. When children see that adults are included in the process, they also do this with all sincerity. We try to include a counselor who plays the guitar in the team, and together we sing sea songs. Every day, there is an evening program: a quest, a concert, a costume party. Parents also have games: mafia, intuition, but first they need to get to know each other better. The main thing is to finish before the end of the counselor’s working day. When parents realized that they could travel with three children and hang out at the same time, the pendulum swung the other way, and at the end of the day, the counselors could not pass the children back to their parents :-). We figured out that there is an actual end of the day when the counselors’ job is over. All participants and the team sing the lullaby to the children. It is very sincere, the children calm down, hug their parents, and by the end of the song, everyone is quiet and yawning.
Singing songs, getting together, telling stories, photo albums — this is what creates the atmosphere, the memories, and brings people back. Overcoming difficulties together is also remembered. For example, when the sea is calm, we arrange a «pirate swing» and a «pirate whirlpool». During the crossings we always do something with children, each counselor has a suitcase with props. We organize the flag alphabet, and the children play words. They even played a game of Battleship via walkie-talkie.
We have expeditions just for adults, and regattas for those who want to race, polish skills, understand the tactics and strategy of racing. Last year we sailed along the Corinth Canal. We decided that in the fall, we will also make an adult regatta.
There is a school in which we train skippers. Training takes place twice a year. The school is important, and we train skippers, who later often sail with us. Now we decided to teach the theory in the online format.
For children, we also have an online product. It starts every week, for five days the children travel with the counselor using Google maps and a special platform, and on the sixth day, they either dance, or watch a movie together, or participate in a concert. It costs 7,000 rubles and is called «Captain Twentin Quarantino.» Live broadcasts in Zoom last for an hour and more. This is an adventure with a quest, and network communication skills — there is a general chat in which we write a task with a cipher. As part of the adventure, we solve a detective story and teach children how to use maps, translator, navigator, and search engine via a game. There is homework, but it is not boring, and they only do it if they want to. During the broadcasts, flash mobs and dances are held, which are easy to repeat. Children dance in front of a computer, and I, as a mother, have a free hour.
Last year we made a trip to Iceland. We planned an adult expedition, but the children saw it on the calendar and really wanted to go. They did everything to convince us, assured that they would obey, dress warmly, and would not whine. In this trip, we realized that we can take children to extreme places, the main thing is to pay even more attention to the safety of both children and parents.
Speakers: Sergey and Nina Sinitsyna; interview prepared by Julia Kochina