Impact Ideas for Youth Sailing

Published on June 28th, 2017

There are many ways to help young sailors get inspired and connected with sailing. US Sailing Youth Director John Pierce offers a list of ideas in this US Sailing blog post that might be of value to youth sailors, programs, and volunteers this summer.


• “Adventure Sailing” has become a common term in youth sailing circles when referring to instructional programing geared primarily towards fun, participation, and well… adventure on the water. Nevin Sayre’s presentation at the Sailing Leadership Forum in 2014, Introducing Adventure Sailing to Your Program, was an instant classic. Nevin makes the case that it’s the adventure, freedom, and social elements of a kid’s sailing experience that sets them up for long-term participation and success in the sport. It’s a must-watch for youth program staff and volunteers. Programs that have added “Adventure Sailing” are finding their drop-out rates decline and increased enrollment in subsequent seasons.

Reach – US Sailing’s STEM Education Initiative – is at the America’s Cup this summer as an official Educational Partner to the 35th America’s Cup! Local students and visiting sailors are participating in Reach activities at the America’s Cup Endeavour Education Station. Follow US Sailing’s social media outlets to see Reach in action in Bermuda this summer… Speaking of Reach, if you’re program isn’t already utilizing the Reach Curriculum, now is the time to start. Reach exposes youth sailors to STEM and environmental education and can easily be incorporated into your existing youth programming. Want to see if Reach would work with your program? Check out the Reach teaser here.

• Seize the opportunity to distance race your dinghy. For many years, youth dinghy racers have been confined to windward-leeward courses, but now you can break free. The Secor Volvo Fishers Island Sound Race is leading the trend, offering C420 sailors “Two Days, Twenty Miles, One Island”. Now in it’s third year, this year’s “Volvo” starts on Thursday, July 13 and includes regatta features typically reserved for the big boat crowd, such as live tracking and media coverage. And other regions are following suit: The Chicago Junior Race Week features a “Mini-Mac” distance race on June 30. By changing the race format, these innovative events offer an adventure on the water and push youth sailors to develop a more complete sailing skill set. Pack your compasses!

• Another exciting trend in youth sailing is the push to develop new, innovative ways for young people to get involved in big boat sailing and racing. Recent additions include the J/70 Youth Championship, Annapolis Yacht Club Junior Sailor Streamer Program, Mudratz and Harken Blockhead youth keelboat teams, and US – UK Etchells Youth Challenge, just to name a few… If you’re ready to get involved, US Sailing’s Junior Big Boat Program Guide is a turn-key option. The guide includes step-by-step instructions and eight lesson plans. Additionally, it features a copy of a U.S. Coast Guard exemption allowing for Level 1 Instructors to facilitate the program without creating a “for hire” situation. It’s not the perfect solution for every need, but in my opinion it’s an underutilized resource.

• Lastly, take a look at this incredible list of world championships coming to North America over the next two years!
— 49er/49erFX Junior Worlds, June 29-July 1 2017, Kingston, Ontario
— 29er Worlds, July 29-August 5, Long Beach, CA
— Youth Match Racing Worlds, July 30-August 5 2017, Newport Beach, CA
— RS Feva Worlds, April 1-7 2018, Clearwater, FL
— Youth World Sailing Championship, July 14-21 2018, Corpus Christi, TX
— International 420 Class Worlds, August 8-15 2018, Newport, RI

Let’s support and cheer on all the American sailors who are racing in these huge regattas, as well as the host clubs and class associations. It takes an army of volunteers to host these premier regattas, and if you’re in the region, I’m sure they would appreciate your help.

In closing, let me share a short, personal story of mine. In 1998, legendary Brazilian Laser sailor Robert Scheidt raced in the CORK regatta in Kingston, Ontario. He made a presentation to the youth sailors in the fleet, and went on to dominate the regatta. I was 15 years old, sailing in one of my first really big regattas, and spent the week in awe of Robert’s ability and professionalism.

My parents volunteered on the race committee, and after the regatta we ditched my twenty year old hull and bought Robert’s charter boat. He shook my hand and signed the centerboard trunk with a permanent marker, and I sailed the rest of my youth career in a boat that had been touched by greatness.

The point of my story is simply that there are so many small ways to help young sailors get inspired and make a special connection with the sport. Whether it’s an adventure on the water, sailing a big boat for the first time, combining science and environmental awareness with sailing, or giving them a taste of the big leagues, we all have the power to make an impact.

Source: US Sailing

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