Recognised as one of the region’s top sailing schools, MANTA Sailing Club operates as a non-profit organisation committed to addressing marine conservation priorities of pollution, overfishing and climate change and, specifically, finding alternative livelihoods for fishermen in the Mui Ne area of Vietnam.
Founded and run by Julia Shaw, Manta is the outcome of marine conservation projects in the Con Dao archipelago from 2005 to 2008, which lead to a call for help from the Vietnam Olympic Committee to assist with development of the country’s national water-sports. From this, Manta developed a circular model designed to take local fishermen away from fossil fuels and overfishing of endangered habitats and transfer their existing ocean skills to water-sports.
Fishermen participating in the programme are trained in water sports, climate change and water survival skills. They then pass on their knowledge and experience to large groups of students visiting from Ho Chi Minh City through courses aligned with International Baccalaureate core curriculum community service components.
The courses Manta offers are developed in collaboration with international schools in southern Vietnam and follow World Sailing guidelines, modified for local students to provide greater safety using simpler language in a shorter time. They are engaging and informative and provide students with essential life skills, as well as helping to develop a passion for water sports.
As a committed environmentalist, Julia is active in Vietnam’s clean-up movement and includes environmental modules in her training programmes, as well as organising regular local beach clean-up activities. In addition to water sport skills, the programmes teach children about zero waste zero plastic lifestyles, and the 9Rs – Rethink, Refuse, Reuse, Recover, Repair, Recycle, Redesign, Rot and Revolutionise.
The workshops run by Manta now offer local fisherman a sustainable alternative to the hard life of ocean fishing, and since 2009 over 15 local fishing families have embarked on a new career, and more than 2,000 children have been trained in water sports, some of whom will represent Vietnam in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Manta’s first sailing manager now trains Vietnam’s national sailing team, their second sailing manager is one of the country’s top surfers and their current assistant coach is Vietnam’s top slalom windsurfer. They are now able to pass on their skills to the next generation of Vietnamese water sport enthusiasts.
As Manta continues to expand their work, they plan to run 24 water sports and climate change survival skills workshops each year, especially for children at local schools. At present, it is estimated that only one in ten Vietnamese children are able to swim, so Julia is keen to open up her learn-to-swim programme to local children and ensure they are protected in the marine environment.