Navy sail program adds value to career

Photo by CPO1 Michael Vincelette.

Lt(N) Sean Milley, NCdt Carrie Magannon, NCdt Katie Hembruff practice tacking and gybing while underway to Comox on June 13. Photo by CPO1 Michael Vincelette.


OS Cedrick Delisle – Contributor

I decided to join the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) a little over a year ago. I did so out of a desire to find a new work environment where collaboration, teamwork, learning and healthy living were at the forefront.

A year later, I am still baffled by the vast amount of opportunities made available to me. One that encompasses so many aspects of what I was looking for and surpassed my expectations is the RCN Sail.

RCN Sail is the navy’s sail training program, built around the simple premise of learning to navigate on a sailboat. It is a great way for sailors to familiarize themselves with seamanship, leadership and teamwork while developing good work ethic and learning a great deal.

Surrounded by ISPA (International Sail and Power Association) qualified instructors and using structured course material, students learn a range of skills, from basic competency as a crewmember to coastal and offshore navigation.

At it’s core, the program uses two identical CS36 sailboats for the practical aspect of training, STV Tuna and STV Goldcrest, the latter of which I had the opportunity to call home for the last two weeks. During a sail training trip that spoke to the spirit of the program, plus the navy’s values as I perceive them, I experienced the many ways this program helps prepare sailors for the rest of their career within the fleet.

We left Esquimalt harbour and over a few days navigated towards Comox, sailing through the Gulf Islands, and stopping in many ports along the way. This gave each student a chance to practice the skills learned prior to the trip, and get firsthand experience applying these skills while STV Goldcrest sailed to its destination and back. We sailed in various wind and sea conditions and appreciated how weather and current affected our journey. We navigated through passages many navy ships don’t visit such as Dodd Narrows, Gabriola Passage and Enterprise Channel. It also made for some unexpected and much appreciated surprises such as an encounter with a pod of orcas outside of Nanaimo, a first for many sailors on board.

For me, an added value of the program is that sailing tends to be a great equalizer and allows everyone to be comfortable giving input based on knowledge and experience, regardless of rank. Done so respectfully, it teaches us to listen and learn from our peers, a skill which we will carry through the rest of our careers, and is a key element of every good leader.

Arriving in Comox for the weekend, the whole crew busied themselves representing the navy by taking part in Camp Boomer, a fundraising event for the Boomer’s Legacy Foundation that helps men and women in uniform make a positive impact in the lives of others in Canada and abroad. During the event itself, crewmembers walked, ran, cycled and gave tours of STV Goldcrest. It made for a great culmination to our trip, making even our downtime meaningful.

RCN Sail is an example of a great program made possible by the motivated personnel who enable sailors to discover a life-time skill, or in my case, an enduring passion for sailing. I feel very fortunate to have had this experience and I strongly encourage other sailors to look into the many opportunities the RCN has to offer.

You can follow RCN Sail on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #RCNSail

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