Securing the Future with Youth Sailors
Published on May 30th, 2017
It is easy to be misled at the health of the sport when seeing overflowing classes of youth instruction during the summer season. While youth participation tends to be strong, the transition out of youth sailing to other facets of the sport is not always.
Forward thinking class organizations should be looking to capture these young sailors fully engaged in youth competition, as the time will come when they will age out this level of sailing. Additionally, attrition in youth sailing occurs when kids are not fulfilled with the types of boats most commonly promoted.
The sooner that ‘life after youth sailing’ can be introduced, the greater the likelihood that young people will be sailing beyond their youth years.
Bill Lakenmacher, President of the J/105 Class, recognizes how their rules need to be adjusted to facilitate this kind of growth.
“One new facet regarding racing is adapting our Class Rules to make some changes so that it will be easier for youth sailors to participate as skippers. On our last phone conference, we had a strong consensus in favor of doing what we can to encourage more sailors for the future.
“Clearly there is a gap for many young sailors as they transition out of dinghies before they start racing keel boats. Unfortunately, many young sailors are lost to other interests, never to return. How much fun is it for a 13-year-old to sail an Opti at 135 pounds on a light to moderate wind day? Answer: not so much. Let them fly the chute on your 105 when it is blowing 8-12, and they have all they can handle.
“Hopefully, we will have the new Rule in place in time for next year’s sailing. In the meantime, feel free to ask for an exemption if you are a fleet that is ready to launch an aggressive youth sailing program.”