We caught up with Ben Collings how sailing on the school lake makes him feel, and why it draws on his musical talent.
What’s your role here at RST?
Primarily, I’m a class music teacher for the Pre-Prep and Prep schools. I also teach one-to-one singing lessons to students in the Prep and Senior schools, as well as directing choirs, smaller instrumental ensembles, teaching music technology and coaching sailing.
When did you start sailing?
I started sailing when I was about 10 years old, so roughly the age that children start learning to sail here at RST. My family were inspired to join a sailing club back in the UK following a flotilla sailing holiday around the Ionian islands one summer. Within a year, my Dad and I were competing together at the Miracle Class national sailing championships.
How does sailing make you feel?
Sailing provides me with an unparalleled sense of freedom and tranquillity, especially when I am out on the water alone. I find it the perfect way to unwind and take my mind off things. It is also a fantastic shared experience, when you are in a two-person crew. The sense of challenge and strategy that is presented each time you go out on the water, particularly when racing, is invigorating and to have the opportunity to literally feel the force of nature in your hands as you are holding a sail is one that I would recommend to anyone.
What’s the best thing about running this co-curricular activity?
It has to be seeing the enjoyment and sense of achievement that the children get from doing it each week. Our sailing coaching staff are highly talented and I have learnt a huge amount myself from them.
How does sailing compare with your daily role as a music teacher?
Sailing a boat correctly requires tremendous attention to detail, patience and practice, in order to succeed. Similarly, when learning an instrument or a particular piece of music, you must also pay attention to each minute detail to realise the composer’s intentions. Even the smallest adjustment can make a huge difference.
How does sailing benefit the pupils who do it?
Sailing provides the students with the opportunity to get away from the daily classroom routine and experience adventure. No two days are the same on a boat and the children quickly learn to deal with challenges that they face. Sailing also gets them to use the skills that they learn every day at school in a new and unique environment, perhaps without them even realising.
What makes it such a popular activity to offer?
We are in a unique position at RST to be able to offer sailing thanks to the outstanding facilities on our huge campus, which includes several lakes. Not many school’s have the space to make sailing an activity on-site! Our visiting team of instructors are also brilliant teachers, and have all competed at national and international level in the sport.
How does sailing embody the RST ethos?
Through sailing, the children learn to apply the academic knowledge they gain in the classroom in a unique setting with real life challenges. For example, our pupils can use geography to identify wind directions and look for patterns on the water; they are able to use mathematical angles to project an appropriate route through a sailing course. The sense of discipline that our pupils learn from sailing also enables them to succeed in a classroom environment, so you might say they were symbiotic.