Providing that New Age Fun Alternative
Published on January 31st, 2017
With about 8,000 O’pen BICs out there, this snazzy youth singlehander has been providing an alternative since its launch 10 years ago. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checks in with brand promoter Nevin Sayre for an update.
Give us a State of the Union on class activity.
There are now 150 sailing programs in North America with O’pen BICs. More and more sailing programs are successfully adding alternative exciting pathways to stoke youth passion for sailing. Let’s face it, not every kid finds their love in conventional racing or in boats designed more than 50 years ago. Many tap out, but the good news is programs that offer new age fun alternatives are seeing their numbers grow and attrition rates decline. The O’Pen BIC has proven to be the perfect platform for this success.
With regard to growth, is the upcoming North Americans a good reflection?
We are anticipating 80 O’pen BICs at the upcoming 2017 North Americans on March 17-19 in Sarasota, Florida. Last year there were 45. There are also about 50% more O’pen BIC events in 2017 than 2015. We’re liking these barometer readings.
The NAs has an extra carrot attached. Explain what lies ahead in Bermuda.
It’s super cool. Thirty-two extremely fortunate O’pen BIC sailors are being selected world-wide for a trip to the America’s Cup Finals in Bermuda, and to sail in the America’s Cup Endeavour O’pen, June 15-18. This event for O’pen BICs is the Half Time Show between Race #1 and Race #2 of the AC Finals, and will be broadcast on television worldwide.
At the North Americans in Sarasota, the top six overall (male or female) and the top two female sailors outside the top six will be selected for Bermuda. On top of that, a ninth spot will be randomly selected from the top 30 who have not already been selected (a 1 in 22 shot). For these kids, lodging, entry fee, charter boat, and meals in Bermuda are being provided. I’m pretty confident this will be a mind blower. Check out http://ac35endeavouropen.com
What is it about the class that has led the America’s Cup to give it such a prominent stage?
Event CEO Russell Coutts personally, along with many other sailing legends, recognize that we need to make sailing cool and modern to inspire new generations, and as a result they have become strong supporters of the O’pen BIC movement.
I tip my hat to Russell who went to New Zealand, giving up his own time to coach at three O’pen BIC events.
Russell saw the success of the O’pen BIC Hi-Wind Slalom held at the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup Challenger Finals. Soon after Bermuda was selected for 2017, Russell was making sure the O’pen BIC would be a big part of the AC Finals, and also the highly successful grass roots Endeavour Community Sailing Program set up in Bermuda.
It only makes sense to showcase new age junior sailing at the premier cutting edge event – the America’s Cup. You have the O’pen BICs, the Red Bull Foiling Generation, the Youth America’s Cup, and then the America’s Cup. It’s a cool new world for kids to aspire to.
The class seems to establish a certain vibe that strikes a balance between competition and fun. What is the secret?
O’pen BIC events focus first on fun, camaraderie, improvement and sportsmanship. Results are less important. Most of our events we call “Un-Regattas” because they are ‘unlike’ other regattas with wild courses, freestyle events, simple rules, and the overall vibe. It’s maybe not for everyone, but there are many kids who happily cross over from other youth boats to the O’pen BIC. It’s all good.
Doesn’t every parent want to see their kids focusing more on skill development and race results?
Not all parents get this. It’s most important to instill the passion for sailing first. That’s where the O’pen BIC and Un-Regattas focus. If the kid then decides this is their thing, and they choose the competitive route, results will follow. Even though I, and most reading Scuttlebutt are racers, we have to remember that racing is actually only a small percentage of people who sail, and there are many uber-passionate sailors who don’t choose conventional windward/leeward racing.
Where are the O’pen BIC hubs in the USA?
It’s interesting how the strongest early adoption and success of the O’pen BIC was largely in the Midwest, but I guess that makes sense. The Midwest has always been known for very cool unconventional boats like scows, Melges sportboats, etc., and the Midwest has always been a hot bed for windsurfing and iceboating. So initial acceptance was easier in the Midwest where it seems performance sailing is more mainstream.
Again and again I come across the parent whose kid sees these fast, cool boats for adults, but then are sent to sailing school where they have typewriters. Doesn’t always work.
The O’pen BIC is also gaining critical mass in Florida, San Diego area, New England, and Long Island Sound. We’re seeing it now where programs are getting O’pen BICs because other programs nearby are finding success. Meanwhile, there are other parts of the country where we have a long way to go. But no doubt, 2017 is already a break out year and more and more are joining the band.