Image by Matthias Jordan



A better way for clubs to engage families and local communities in sailing.





Structured Learning Methodology (SLM) operates at sailing clubs around Australia, a breakthrough innovation designed to turn around struggling sailing programs by engaging more purposefully with local communities. This highly adapted org structure generates activity through learning and improvement bringing income, sailing memberships and community support. Clubs can develop young sailors and reinstate fleets operating in a larger economic context utilising this highly functional system and better use of resources. 

Families, instructors, coaches, sailors and clubs have always wanted to learn and improve, we just have not been good at organising it sustainably.  A simple request to management to allow a training program to operate differently could be all it takes. SLM installs a dinghy training capability which channels participants through an automated continuously improving system on economic scales with minimal administration.


The program simultaneously develops highly competent instructors and coaches who develop highly competent sailors, adapted to any club, anywhere using any dinghy class. When operated as advised the system is sustainable, transparent processes support forecasted performance with high degree of confidence. 

Family responses since 2002 have been strongly positive, local communities support active learning in sport, child youth and leadership development, continuous process improvement, which is what SLM is founded upon. By harnessing 

A simple change to the way we operate gives Clubs everywhere extraordinary possibilities. A small inexperienced regional club in Cairns or Darwin for example can grow as fast as one in Sydney. Rapid growth generated through training creates the circumstance for volunteers and a committee to build an active sailing program. SLM processes are being adapted by club dinghy committees in response to improve the way volunteers build fleets, engage in on-water activities, maintain equipment, raise funds.


A resurgence in sailing as a highly valued sport generated by stronger sailing clubs with active sailing programs and functional community relationships.


SLM assures that a club can compete with rival sporting codes and with other sailing clubs on quality, growth, retention and lower marginal cost. Clubs are often in a position to start-up and operate training using cash flows generated where program leadership is supported.  Adapting the SLM methodology correctly can build local community support around small club development (or larger, regional or city) where little coaching experience or a shortage of equipment can be part of a journey to develop their children to adulthood. 


SLM has been helped small local community or large marina clubs in metro and regional locations around Australia develop and adapt to growth since 2002. SLM training programs most often operate at Australian Sailing DSC, employ accredited instructors and coaches, access insurance through a normal RevSport portal. Our growing group of SLM devotees share information and communicate regularly online.

Advice is provided to prepare an SLM dinghy training program proposal to management at no cost. Should the club proceed advice will be available to assist leadership to setup a coaching group to start and operate, to guide instructors and coaches in the use of online resources including processes and broad based junior, youth and senior class curriculum.

Important: Building participation and trust in a training program dictates that it will function well over the long term. Assuring the coaching group adapt to SLM is fundamental to the success of the training program and community support. SLM is a complex machine like program that generates participation, but only when an empowered coaching group develop sailors utilising the simple process methodology provided. SLM can be adapted to club circumstance but cannot be simplified or altered without disrupting coach and sailor development. 

Don Elks, owner and developer of SLM, has provided advice to the Australian sailing community since 2002.



Training Program step 1: Proposal documentation for a dinghy training program 
adapted to club circumstance for management consideration.  
Training Program step 2: Advice to start-up and operate including the formation and development
of a coaching group, online resources and guidance to assist instructors and coaches to support sailors.

Active Sailing Program steps: SLM can assist with a purposefully design committee structure to build an active sailing program. Committees thrive in rapid growth situation with family members who want to participate in club activities or volunteer to support their child. 
SLM creates value and streamlines support around sailing and Club activity 
large or small Clubs, regional or metro where there is water, family and boats


Building a training capability necessarily starts with the development of a coaching group who work with children aged 8-10, competent sailors progress in pools through junior, youth and adult stages.


The successful coaching group is key, they have tools to manage retention. Clubs take a long term view deciding what fleet structure to develop and what events it wants to pursue.  When the coaching group engage sailors in the process of learning and improvement, sailors have a higher propensity to be loyal to the program and parental support is more likely to extend through high school and uni. 


As the coaching group matures it can apply experience and similar methodology to the development of novice teen and adults fleets.

Training pools of competent  junior, youth and adult classes will be dependent on the committee to run sailing and social events. The committee process can be configured to build an active sailing program, to engage with the local community to maintain fleets, host social and sailing activities.
 With the growth in popularity of training more parents are more available to help their children. Because families may not have a sailing background or time to help a functional committee needs to organise their time effectively. 
A manual with recommended practice will help the committee adapt process and IT in the organisation of people to operate more purposefully. The manual will guide the committee through community engagement, youth and adult fleet development, social activities and bosons group maintenance.

Training Program proposal documentation is complimentary. Fee for services are normally payable annually or as required.

Sail Boats


The SLM system is an amazing tool for sailing programs looking to turn their sailors into lifelong members of the sport. The program uses time-tested ideas with modern learning organisation principles to ensure sailors, coaches and clubs all benefit.


With a clear structure, open communication and high enrolment of all members and volunteers in an SLM program, great results can and have been achieved.


Don has created a methodology that not only showcases his passion for the continual development of clubs and community, but also enhances coaching effectiveness, and steers members into being lifelong contributors into the sport."     


Ryan Palk - Sail Change


"The SLM structure had a massive impact on my sailing career. When I moved to Perth I had no structure in my training and coming into a club that was run with this program accelerated my learning immensely and put me on the right pathway to reach my goals. Without it, my whole sailing experience would have been very different and I doubt I would have come as far as I have.      


Luke Elliott Sailing 

Image by Brett Jordan


Don Elks

Perth, Western Australia

Tel:  0418116179

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