Anyone down at the lakefront today could have witnessed the making of 11 future Olympic sailors testing out their sea legs.

Pupils from Owhata School took to Lake Rotorua with their sailboats, guided by a coach from Yachting New Zealand.

Volvo Sailing... Have a Go! is a schools programme designed to give pupils in Years 4 to 8 the opportunity to experience the thrills of sailing in a fun, safe environment.

Working with schools and their nearest sailing club, three trailers travel the country carrying everything required to learn to sail - boats, safety gear and a coach.


Ralph Mosen, an Owhata School board of trustees member and the programme director for Ngati Te Roro o te Rangi's education band, said the pupils were thrilled about the programme.

"Last term these pupils, all part of the accelerated learning programme, studied the Olympics and sailing caught their eye for two reasons - it was the sport New Zealand won the most medals in but also, after some researching, the kids discovered there weren't many Maori sailors.

"The kids wanted to give [sailing] a crack so here we are. If one or two of them want to pursue sailing further then there are channels they can follow - what's important is that we're showing our Maori pupils that rugby is not the only sport they can pursue."

Mr Mosen said he was surprised how affordable the programme was and encouraged other schools to look into it.

Tricia Cassidy, 8, said she was most excited about steering the boat.

"I watched the sailing on the TV and thought it would be cool to try myself.

"I've liked it so far and would be interested in carrying on," she said.

Yachting New Zealand programmes and services co-ordinator Danika Mowlem said the programme was all about "giving the kids a fun day out on the water".

"We are introducing them to a sport many haven't had the chance to try. We give them as little instruction as possible and the kids think that's awesome.

"I think the biggest thrill is that there is no adult in the boat - it's all up to them, they're in complete control and have complete freedom."

Ms Mowlem said for many of the participants it was their first experience of sailing.

"What the kids realise when doing the programme is that everyone starts at the same level. The likes of Peter Burling and Sam Meech were once 8 years old starting out too."

She said capsizing the vessels seemed to be the most popular thing to do.

For more information on how to book a session for your school go to