▲ Students of the Jeju International Yacht School learning sailing skills in small dinghy yachts. Photo by Chris Moule
“It’s a baby step,” said Sin Kyung Gu, speaking about the Jeju International Yacht School, Jeju’s only school for sail training, which opened on March 29. Sin, the school’s head coach, added that Jeju is about 20 years behind the Korean mainland in terms of sailing facilities but that there would be growth here.
The school consists of a small building that functions as a schoolhouse, in front of which is situated a modest marina hosting 10 dinghy yachts, a couple of cruisers and a motor-boat. To date, the school has just one teacher, Sin, who works with an assistant, Yi Young Min. Three other employees work for the school but they are involved only with administrative tasks and other duties.
Assuming that Jeju is not un-charted waters for the prospective student, navigation to the school is fairly simple _ it’s located on the coastal shore of Gimnyeong, just west of the public beach. One would do well to bear in mind that the Jeju International Yacht School is not the same entity as the Jeju Yacht Club, which is also located on Gimnyeong’s coast, albeit further east. Though these are different institutions they function co-operatively. For instance, anyone without sailing experience must train at the school if they want to be eligible to gain membership at the yacht club.
If you’re heading to the school by yacht you’ll need to chart your course well, and Sin is probably just the guy to help you do this. His professional involvement with sailing began 25 years ago, during his third year of middle school, and has earned him, in addition to an adventurer’s profession, 20 or so awards. And while the school is new, Sin’s livelihood as a sailing instructor is not. Stretching back about two decades, some career highlights include nine years of experience at Halla College, four years as a coach at the Jeju Yacht Association, two years of teaching at a marina resort in Kyungsan province and two years at Seoul’s City Hall Yacht school.
For his students, Sin said, his motto is, “Safety first, and then fun.” Besides the fun of the sport itself, he said that while out on the water, students can expect to occasionally stop fishing boats as they pass, either to go fishing from the deck or to converse with the crew, and at other times he and his students go snorkeling or sunbathing or buy seafood from the local haenyeo diving women. Sin illustrated the other aspect of his motto, namely the need for safety, with some sailing anecdotes. Smiling crookedly at the memory, he said that once, while sailing from the Philippines to Okinawa, Japan, his vessel got grounded on a coral reef that was not indicated on the chart he had.
▲ Photo by Chris Moule
Marooned but still in open water, he settled for the only reasonable option available _ he waited for the tide to rise and lift his craft off the reef. More soberly, Sin explained that getting lost happens, even to professionals. Fog, for in-stance, can roll in very quickly. When something like this occurs, Sin said, orienting oneself is possible by knowing the tendencies of the tides and the wind, and how these tendencies change seasonally. During a sailing trip he takes twice a year, which begins in Busan and takes him to ports in Japan be-fore passing Dokdo on his return, Sin has relied on such knowledge to guide himself during poor weather, and has also both rescued others, and been rescued himself.
Yet thus far, it is the school itself, as a business and an institution, which may be in need of some rescue. Unafraid of rocking the boat, Fred Dustin, who is both the owner of the Maze Park and a financial supporter of many institutions on Jeju, including Jeju International Yacht School, lowered the boom - as it were - because of a number of issues related to the school’s allocation of funds, as well as the content of instruction offered.
The “educational content” shown on the Web site (www.jejuyacht.kr) is, indeed, very brief and, at the time of writing, offered only in Korean, which may make you scratch your head at the international part of the school’s name. Student instruction is also offered only in Korean, though Lee Byung Gul, a professor at Jeju National University, “may be around sometimes, but not always” for translation services, Sin said. Pamphlets available at the school do offer English descriptions of the course content alongside the Korean, but those are vague. For example, one day’s instruction is described as “train to be adept on the sea (windward, leeward courses),” while another is described as “warm-up play.” These are two days of a three-day course, and some English speakers on the island may baulk at the idea of a syllabus in such obvious need of detail, clarity and focus.
Technically the school is owned by Jeju SeaGrant, which is, according to Sin, the main financial contributor. Jeju Province is another financial contributor. So is Fred Dustin, who, in April voiced concerns about how and where the money is being spent. Specifically, he said that “200 million won was invested by Miro Park [the Maze Park], another 100 million was invested by the provincial government _ that’s 300 million won, and what do we see down here today?” He gestured from his car to a handful of dingy-sailboats on the water. “Is this 300 million won?” he asked.
Regardless, the school is officially open and further plans are underway. Sin said that this year should see licensing available for students a new marina in Gimnyeong large enough to moor 15 boats, with funding from the Jeju provincial government. Whether clear sailing or rough waters lie ahead, anchor has been weighed for this project and now it remains to be seen whether it will sink or sail.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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