Retaining the Next Generation of Sailors

Published on October 3rd, 2017

With the popularity of age-based competition in youth-only institutional-type boats, introducing teenagers to other facets of the sport has become a challenge. What once happened organically now needs extra effort.

An example of this is how one design classes have launched programs to provide qualified young sailors with loaner boats. The Lightning class was a leader in this movement, with Miia Newman having been selected as a 2017 recipient of its annual boat grant.

“Sailing is a sport that you can be competitive in your whole life,” said Newman. “I love that I will never have to stop, and I can look forward to regattas and sailboat racing competitions as my weekend getaways. Sailing is also more than just a hobby; it’s a community. When I travel on weekends to race, it’s basically an excuse to take a road trip with some of my closest friends to go see my crazy extended sailing family.”

The Lightning Boat Grant provides sailors with a boat for one season so they can compete in lightning regattas. Newman, who grew up sailing along the Gulf Coast, recently participated in the Lightning North American Championship in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

As an undergraduate student at Tulane, Newman built strong relationships while competing on the Tulane University sailing team. She has now teamed up with three of her former teammates, Jessica Oswalt, Nick Watts and Malcolm Kriegel, to compete in the Lightning regattas this season.

“We were extremely excited to sail in the North American Championship,” said Newman. “The class is full of some world-class sailors, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to compete with them.”

The evolution of youth-only competition in institutional-type boats has increased participation among teenage sailors, but it has likely hastened their introduction to the range of sailing opportunities that can keep them in the sport. To insure the next generation “will never have to stop,” it is incumbent for classes and clubs to help that transition from youth sailing to life sailing.

Source: Tulane University, Craig Leweck

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