Why Traditional Boats?

Pilot Cutter in St.-Malo Bay, Brittany

Traditional boats in good working order are relatively rare. They were never produced on modern assembly lines, and only a few boatwrights still build them. That means they are/were hand-crafted by passionate artisans. That's why we like them. Each of ours has its own unique personality, and both were constructed not only with old-school expertise but with love. 

If it's character you're trying to build, it helps to surround yourself with things that exude (charm and) character. That would include not only our boats, but many of the places we visit. 

You can use all sorts of boats to go on a sailing expedition. But why settle for something ordinary when something truly exceptional is available?

Youth and Self-Confidence

In mid-January (2017), The Telegraph, a daily newspaper in the UK, ran an article under the headline "Half of young people have so many 'emotional problems' they cannot focus at school, study finds".

The following is an excerpt:

Professor Louise Arseneault, ESRC Mental Health Leadership Fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, said: "Given the profound uncertainty surrounding recent political events and the fact that young people face the worst job prospects in decades, it's not surprising to read that one in four young people aged 16 to 25 don’t feel in control of their lives.

Professor Arseneault continued: “Although it’s obviously alarming that these concerns play on young minds, it’s encouraging to see that young people have an interest in actively shaping their own future.”

 Of those who do not feel they are in control of their lives, 61 per cent said they felt this was because they lack self-confidence [emphasis ours], and that this holds them back.

Sixty-one percent? Wow!

This blog is full of other posts, including links to news articles, that help identify the challenges of growing up in the modern world. Just scroll down. If you're looking for tried-and-true solutions, you have our coordinates.


Parents weigh in on purchases that are "worth the money"

In January 2017, Business Insider published the results of a parents' poll. They asked a group [size undisclosed] of adults with children of various ages "to weigh in on the financial side of having kids" and specifically, to list the parenting splurges they thought were well worth the money.

Sixteen expenses came out on top; among them: "summer camp," "educational resources," and "studying abroad."

You can read the article here.


Heuristic Learning In The Digital Age

Dave Snowden, founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, and Joshua Cooper Ramo, co-CEO of Kissinger Associates and former senior editor of Time magazine, sat down in April 2016 at the New York Public Library for a conversation entitled "Edge Tools in a Digital Age: Social Processes in a Radically Contingent World."

At one point in the discussion, Mr. Snowden made an interesting comment about virtual reality (VR). He said, "If you don't engage the body in the (VR) game, you don't have a proper game. You haven't got stress, you haven't got chemical release...  [For example] Smell is an important determination of trust... It's the level of stimulus that concerns me. We are increasingly learning that things happen in the body chemically which influence consciousness, which has been vastly overlooked, and if you just rely on visual and auditory stimulus you're damaging human intelligence."

Adventure education is about heuristic learning—engaging all the senses in transformative trial-and-error experiences. When it comes to resilience, strong personal relationships, cultural fluency (and perhaps even cognitive acuity), there really is no satisfactory substitute for authenticity. We still learn best by taking on new challenges in the real world.

The more challenging the task...

—Jesse Itzler, excerpted from a video that appeared on the website Business Insider. Jesse, a highly successful serial entrepreneur, hired an ex-Navy SEAL to live with him in his NYC apartment for a month and teach him a few things about life. This is just one of his 'takeaways.'

Essential Skills for Tomorrow's World

In late February, 2016, GPS (CNN) host Fareed Zakaria interviewed Alec Ross, former senior adviser for innovation to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and author of a new book, The Industries of the Future. "It is a book written for recent graduates, predicting what the next 20 years will bring, which industries will boom, which jobs will grow, and perhaps most importantly, which skills will be necessary to compete." Here is an excerpt from that interview.

—ZAKARIA: So young people listening to this, parents listening to this, will wonder what should we do to prepare for this new world?

—ROSS: I have a 13-year-old son, an 11-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son. And I really wrote this book to try to light a little path for them. Sixty-five percent of all jobs for children entering primary school today will go into job titles that don't presently exist. 

And so I have a chapter in the book called "The Most Important Job You'll Ever Have," which is parenting, which focuses on the skills and attributes that today's kids will need in tomorrow's world. 

And I point out two things, first: interdisciplinary learning. We've got to be able to take science, technology, engineering and mathematics and combine that with skills in the humanities focused on 65 percent of jobs go into jobs that don't exist. [...] I point out two things. first, interdisciplinary learning. We've got to be able to take science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and combine that with skills in the humanities focused on persuasion, teaching and other such things. 

The second thing I would say is language learning, foreign languages and computer languages. The world is growing more global. People who are prepared to work on a 196-country chessboard are going to be those who are best positioned [emphasis ours]—and computer coding because, if you are a competent coder, you basically have a few decades' worth of guaranteed employment in front of you. 

The drums are getting louder: early international exposure is becoming increasingly essential in the age of globalization. Just something to bear in mind when considering summer programs for teenagers.

The full transcript can be found here, near the bottom of the page:  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1602/14/fzgps.01.html

Declining student resilience a serious problem? Not if we can help it.

Psychology Today recently published an article about the problem of declining student resilience and the impact it's having at universities in the United States. This is a problem we can help fix. In fact, it's precisely what our courses are designed to do—and much more.


It's not about all the treasure we own. It's about all the experiences we treasure.


James Wallman, writing in Fast Company (June 2015), cites seven reasons, backed by research, why money spent on experiences generally trumps money spent on material things when it comes to making us happy. Not that this should be news, but...


The challenges of the modern world

We believe challenging adventures build self-confidence and character. We'd love to introduce you to our world, a world where YOU, your talents, and your contributions not only matter, but are essential to the success of an amazing journey to magical places. 

Addictive Behavior

A number of years ago, several of us involved in the ELS attended school In Switzerland—in a ski resort no less. We skied almost every day. In those days learning how to ski was painful; you spent more time on your rear end than standing upright. But after you got the hang of it, the sport grew on you. And by the end of the season you were hooked. You couldn't imagine life without a mountain and ski lift in your back yard.

Sailing a classic yacht is the same sort of proposition. The first day bobbing up and down in the water, trying to figure out what you're doing, can be a little unnerving. But by the end of the first week, you're addicted. And by the end of the course, you feel like some sort of James Bond—smoothly operating at a new altitude in magical European destinations. (For what it's worth, we think our cutters are cooler (if less luxurious) than that boat Daniel Craig and Eva Green used to make their entrance into Venice in Casino Royale.) Anyway, sailing, like skiing, is a sport you simply have to try to fully appreciate. Video images on a screen don't do it justice. And yachting should come with a warning: potentially mind altering.

Spoiler Alert

It so happens that every August there is a regatta in St.-Malo. People show up from all over the place to race their boats and party. Well, as it turns out, several August ELS crew members (along with some staff) participated. We're still waiting on some pics from the organizers to make a splash, but... it turns out that our two boats came in first and second in their class. One larger boat came in first in the traditional boats race, but because of its size and sail dimensions, it technically falls within a different category. So there it is. Can Will Sutherland teach sailing or what?

As soon as we get the pics, we'll post 'em. In the mean time, congratulations to our August crews!

—So Jane, what did you do this summer?
—Well, I did a little sailing in France and the English Channel and won a regatta in St.-Malo. You?

Dispatch From The July Cruise

Taking It All In—St.-Malo •  Photo: Samuelle Grande

Taking It All In—St.-Malo •  Photo: Samuelle Grande

"I came to Saint-Malo by taking a ferry from Dinard and was immediately charmed by the landscape. On my arrival I walked in a daze searching for Marie-Claude and Yseult, the two boats I would be sailing on for the next few weeks. It was very easy to find them; one might have difficulty missing such an imposing and unique pair. I made my way through the touristic throng that was taking pictures of the boat and found myself in front of Will Sutherland. He greeted me with warmth, inviting me to sit down with him. As I sat down, French boys ran about, tying knots, preparing the sailboat and doing innumerable esoteric acts that I assumed would soon make much more sense to me. Will offered me a cup of tea, and I knew that my experience would be even better than I had expected.

            Now, on my fifth day exposed as I have been to sea, sailboat and wonderful people, I can say with confidence that this experience is unique. Everyone on the boat is different. We eat together, laugh together and sail together. We are becoming a team where everyone has his place. With all the backgrounds, histories and cultures I don’t believe that anyone who embarks on this adventure can have a commonplace experience.

 Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I truly believe the QBE leadership program is nothing like any other sailing program offered in the world.  What distinguishes the QBE program is the independence given to the apprentice sailors by Will. His way of teaching is not to dictate but to lead. He lets us make mistakes so that we learn from them. We are all learning simultaneously, but no two people learn the same way. Thus the lessons remain unique and thanks to Will’s methods, effective. I sat down with Will for an hour and listened with amazement to his wonderful sailing stories. Will Sutherland has this way of grasping your attention and making every story he tells into a lesson. His stories made me understand that, just like us, he learnt from his mistakes.

I have only been on the QBE leadership program for five days but I have already learnt so much in that span of time."      

                                                     —Samuelle Grande (Montreal, Canada) English is Samuelle's second language.

Learning A Foreign Language


"The whole world speaks English, so I don't need to speak a foreign language." Well... no they don't. And yes you do. According to a Eurostat Adult Education Survey, 63 percent of the adult population in the European Union say they know at least one foreign language. But only 31 percent say they know it well (at a good or proficient level). And some of those are lying—or exaggerating. In the U.S. and UK, acquired second language proficiency is abysmal. The fact is, in a world where geography is becoming increasingly irrelevant, language skills are becoming even more important. And nobody's paying attention. If you think hand-held devices are going to bail you out, don't hold your breath. They're getting better, but they have a long way to go.  In international business, proficiency in a second or third language is often as necessary as a business suit. You may be able to get by without it, but people will question your professionalism and educational credentials. Of course, language acquisition is hard. It generally takes years to achieve some measure of fluency in any language, and longer for some languages than others. All the more reason to get started early. So parents, if you're trying to motivate your kids to take foreign language study seriously, send them abroad. There's nothing like international exposure to generate a little enthusiasm.

A Harvard Admission Hack?

In a recent article in The Atlantic, David A. Graham discusses strategies for gaining admission to elite universities like Harvard. 

“We could fill our class twice over with valedictorians, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust told an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, on Monday [June 30, 2014]. That means admissions officers rely on intangibles like interesting essays or particularly unusual recommendations to decide who comprises the 5.9 percent of applicants who get in. 

Gilpin’s top tip for raising a Harvard man or woman: “Make your children interesting! [emphasis ours]

For parents and students alike, that’s both good news and bad news. The bad news is that of course it’s much easier to say that than to actually make it happen, though Faust recommended encouraging children to follow their passions as a way to develop an interesting personality. It’s much easier to complete a checklist, however daunting, than to actually be interesting.

But the good news is that when colleges use this set of criteria, kids can focus on shaping their teenage years in a way that isn’t just about trying to building up resume line after resume line, and instead focus on a more holistic sense of self [emphasis ours]. That seems like a far more sensible way to move through high school than spreading oneself too thin trying to get a slew of positions one can’t really ever concentrate on. That encourages a dilettantish approach to learning and society that is just the opposite of what the liberal arts have traditionally tried to encourage.

We would humbly suggest that one of the most effective ways to make yourself a bit more interesting is by doing extremely interesting things. And if you can do interesting things in interesting places, so much the better. As for developing a holistic sense of self, well that's what the ELS is all about. We've never thought of our program as a "university admission hack." We prefer to think of it more as a "life hack." But if the shoe fits...

Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/how-to-get-into-harvard/373726/#ixzz36E6SEMBX

Learning By Doing. But Doing What?

That people learn by doing is not very controversial. In fact, that insight has a distinguished pedigree. In antiquity, Aristotle observed: "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." In the twentieth century, educators like Maria Montessori, Kurt Hahn, John Corlette and others all embraced Discere Faciendo.

Today, though, "learning by doing" is taking on new dimensions. The internet has not only introduced abundant new resources for didactic teaching, its interactive capabilities have also redefined what it means to "do." We are now able to create virtual realities that can be explored and manipulated from any hot spot. There are not many places we cannot virtually "visit" or things we can't virtually "do" from an armchair. But it is misguided to conflate the virtual with the real.

Indeed, with the advent of the virtual has come a new appreciation for the authentic. For example, there is now a four-year high school, the Think Global School (thinkglobalschool.org), that packs up and moves to a new location around the world every term. In addition to their traditional studies, students engage in experiential learning through such activities as cultural exchanges, museum tours, and nature expeditions. Of course, just living abroad is an exercise in rich experiential learning. Many other schools also are setting aside a few weeks each year for travel with service and/or pedagogical components.

For those who want both a transformative international experience for their teenagers but also the advantages of a traditional high school education (team sports; regular parental interaction; a local, life-long peer group; etc.) The ELS offers an attractive alternative.