A team of young female sailors from the Uttaradit Daruni School recently competed in the 3rd International School Championship held at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club. The team consisted of: 14-year-old Natnaree "View" Suksomboon; 14-year-old Suthida "Aum" Rattana; 15-year-old Ruethainat "Mulan" Rodsawatporn; 15-year-old Kritchaorn "Burger" Sriwichai; 15-year-old Chalathai "Jah" Jindalert; and 16-year-old Hathaiphat "Fourth" Inmeesap. Colin Chamberlain, a teacher at the Uttaradit Daruni School, has compiled the folowing report for us, based on interviews with key figures who made it all happen.
Interview with MEP Director – Wacheeporn "Kru Khai" Suksomboom:
How did Uttaradit Daruni start a relationship with the Royal Varuna Yacht Club?
"We are actually a special program at Uttaradit Daruni School, the Mini English Program (MEP), which teaches a majority of our classes in English. To promote the use of English with our students, we have set up English Camps for our students. Two years ago, my friend, Dr. Nipat Ungprakornkaew, who enjoys taking his two sons to sail at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, recommended that the yacht club might be a good place to host an English Camp. Many of the club members are foreigners, primarily using English to communicate, and the yacht club is beautifully located in a safe and serene portion of Pattaya. The club offers beach access and sailing instruction in Thai and English. After a review from my staff, I agreed to make the RVYC the location for an English Camp for our grade eight and grade nine students for December 9 – 11, 2014, and our grade nine and grade twelve students, November 18 – 20, 2015. During these camps, our students were able to participate in a three-hour sailing introduction course. We are the first Thai government school to create an English Camp at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club."
What are English camps?
"Uttaradit Daruni MEP English Camps are camps organized for our MEPs students giving them an opportunity to use and practice their English skills through a variety of fun and interesting activities. We want the students to participate in team building activities and to learn life skills they might not learn in the classroom. We start with a camp theme and then design camp activities to promote our goals."
How long has Uttaradit Daruni been traveling to the Royal Varuna Yacht Club for English camps?
"This is our second year at RVYC."
Why was Uttaradit Daruni invited to the 3rd International School Championship?
"I'm not sure why, maybe because Richard, the RVYC manager, and Nipat Ungprakornkaew PhD (Sports Management), from the committee of the Thailand Olympic Academy and the National Olympic Committee of Thailand, want sailing to be widely appreciated among Thai people. The invitation was also a great way to promote RVYC to a new demographic, including our students and their parents. With this invitation RVYC will now be known among government schools and not only the international schools."
What do you think about being the only Thai government school attending the competition?
"In Thailand, there are 31,508 government schools, 2,361 are secondary schools, or high schools, like Uttaradit Daruni, but only our school was invited. I'm really glad that our students had the opportunity to participate, this race had the potential to be an amazing experience for our students and I did not want them to miss it. I had two goals for our sailing team: one, for our students to achieve a greater understanding on how to sail, and two, for our students to have a chance to interact and communicate with the other international students participating in the sailing race."
How did the students perform?
"They were really excited: some of them would like to continue racing because they fell in love in with sailing and some of them really appreciated the opportunity to interact with the international students."
How was the Uttaradit Daruni Sailing team created?
"During the sailing portion of our MEP English Camp I noticed some of the grade-nine students really enjoying themselves sailing. I asked them individually if they would like to participate in a sailing race. Some of them wanted to join, but their parents decided against participating. Eventually, we organized six students who were interested in racing and also had the support of their parents. Unfortunately, we only had limited time at our English Camps to learn and practice before the race. The students instead did sailing exercises after school at a pond near my house for the two weeks before the race."
How much sailing experience did the students have?
"The only sailing experience they had was at our English Camps, totaling about 6 hours in sailing instruction and then two more full days of training before the race. So, about 15 hours prior to the championship."
Where is Uttaradit, and how far from the sea is it?
"Uttaradit is located in northern Thailand, about 600 kilometer from Pattaya. We currently do not have the facilities to practice sailing."
What are the plans for the future for the Uttaradit Daruni Sailing Team?
Interview with the Uttaradit Daruni Director Monchai Panathup:
"We would love to continue racing and building up our sailing experience with practice and English Camps at the RVYC. We plan to have an English Camp for our grade nine and ten students there every year. Additionally, we are now proposing the creation of a yacht club at a couple of locations here in Uttaradit. We would love our students and our community to have a chance to appreciate the wonderful sport of sailing along with the possibility of promoting our province. The Royal Varuna Yacht Club, Dr.Nipat and our director have plans to discuss this potential opportunity with the local community. We hope that our dream comes true. Then we will be able to practice and become a serious contender at next year's Thailand International School Championships—we love sailing!"
What do you think about Uttaradit Daruni attending the 3rd annual Thailand International School Championship at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya this weekend?
"In my opinion, I think it gave the students an opportunity to show their abilities as well as to build their confidence. From these competitions, the students will improve their English, have a better understanding of other cultures, and establish themselves in the international context.
"I thought that this was a very good opportunity for our students since we are from the northern Thailand where there is no access to the sea. We hardly ever sail in this part of Thailand.
"When the students had the opportunity to visit the RVYC, they have a chance to learn how to sail, how to control the sailboats and how to learn to read the wind. The most important part of the competition, I believe, was that our students were able to practice their English with other students, which was the main goal of setting up the Mini English Program – our students should be able to speak English fluently."
What do you think about Uttaradit Daruni being the first and only Thai government school in attendance?
"Being the first is quite an opportunity; our students were able to show their abilities among international students. If there are other international activities that allow our students to participate, I will not hesitate to encourage them to attend these programs. I want our junior high or senior high students from our Mini English Program to participate in at least one activity hosted by an international agency. I want to promote activities that help our students improve their English proficiency and I would also like them to have international exposure."
What do you think about a sailing team at Uttaradit Daruni School?
"I think it has been a great experience for our students to be exposed to sailing and its benefits. Uttaradit might not yet have a place to practice sailing, but I think in the future we could set up sailing facilities in a water réservoir located above the Sirikit Dam, or at our pond in Nong Pra Lae in Lablae district, and possibly even in the pond in Tron district where it can be quite windy, providing the necessary requirements to allow us to practice sailing. I think this would also be another great way to promote tourism in Uttaradit Province."
Comment from Nipat Ungprakornkaew PhD in Sports Management, member of Thailand Olympic Academy, National Olympic Committee of Thailand:
"I appreciate the leadership shown by the principal of Uttaradit Daruni School as well as the competence and determination of his staff, especially the MEP section, in educating and preparing all pupils for the future.
"Sailing is one of the Olympic sports and a microcosm of globalization teaching education values such as the joy of effort, fair play, friendship and solidarity. As English is mainly the media of communication for sailing, this provides a great window of opportunity for students to learn English hands-on. Hopefully, this will be an example for other Thai schools to have sailing as an extra-curricular activity as well."