Growing the Sport from the Root

Published on February 6th, 2017

Longview Yacht Club is a small club in northeast Texas, and like many rural yacht clubs in USA, LYC has been challenged to introduce sailing to the youth and adults alike. But an innovative event is now helping move the needle.

The 17th annual “U-Make-It U-Sail-It” event will be held this spring on Lake O’ the Pines, but three years ago the event was re-engineered as a true grassroots sailing event. Putting the focus on introducing youth, scouts, and adults to the sport of sailing, they devised a new format which has been a phenomenal success.

Critical to the turnaround has been the creation of a one-design “LYC-8” (downwind) drag racing sailboat that can be built from a supplied kit and materials from local home improvement centers (i.e. Lowes) – all for about $150. It is easy to build, safe, supports up to 300 pounds of crew weight, and weighs less than 60 pounds.

Using a sail designed by two time Olympic Silver medalist Randy Smyth, the sails were assembled by LYC members with donated hot air balloon material. Participants are free to design and shape the hulls, configure control lines, and can modify the rudder system.

In 2016, the event was attended by over 250 people, of which over 100 were youngsters. A fleet of 26 boats competed with 46 skippers and crews, with half of the boats sailed by Boy Scout and Sea Scout (2 person) teams. Eight downwind drag races (200m) were held in 5 to 20 knots of wind with entries competing in singlehanded and doublehanded divisions. Additionally, the top Scout team (doublehanded) won a perpetual trophy they will seek to defend this year.

Not only did this event attract and motivate scouting troops in the East Texas region to participate, it also appealed to families with parents/ grandparents and younger children working together to build and sail the boat together. In the end, this event promoted the sport of sailing to youth and others, raised money for a deserving charity, and brought positive attention to LYC in the community.

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