Getting Kids on Adult Boats

Published on October 16th, 2013

By Glenn McCarthy
Alan Veenstra, owner of Chicago Sailing, discussed his youth experiences on going to races like the Tri – State (three overnights out of town), leaving his parents behind in Chicago for the weekend.

The first impression he remembers was that he was free. Freedom to youth, especially in today’s climate of helicopter parents, is a big thing, bigger than it was in our youth when we didn’t have helicopter parents. Being with a group of adults taught him how adults behave and don’t behave, belch, expel flattus, tell dirty stories, and other behaviors of life. He learned about navigation, safety on big boats, maritime traditions, spring lines, sleeping aboard a boat, and many other skills not taught in youth sailing programs. He marvels today what a grand experience it was.

Are my writings just anecdotal, just opinions? Not at all. “Saving Sailing” author Nicholas Hayes’ point is that children need to sail with their parents. This is the fundamental basis for what I’ve been writing. I now want to take it one step further. We have so many youth in Sailing Schools, Optimist, 420, Youth, High School and Collegiate Sailing whose parents do not sail, that we need to bring these youth aboard adult boats.

It appears that to break the cycle of adults only inviting their adult friends aboard, we need a rule that requires carrying youth aboard (those adults who get bounced to make room for kids need to get their own boats out there and add youth to their crew , too). We need to match up sailing school students with adult s on their big boats. We need to mentor and teach navigation, safety, and all the skills we have to the next generation.

It is the adults’ fault that 95% of youth sailors quit sailing by age 22. It is our job to convert them into Adult Sailing, but we do not reach out and make it happen. We just sit around and comment on the loss of all of these kids. Until such time we make it a requirement to put kids on adult boats, we will continue to dwindle off into the sunset.

So who is going to assure that the sailing school kids, high school kids and college kids get invited on adult boats? Who is going to make this happen? Does anyone have any examples of their success doing this?

We need to make these fundamental changes to sailboat racing. It is our responsibility to make it grow again. Opportunities keep sliding by; don’t let them! Write to me and share your plans, what’s worked and what didn’t! Email to

Source: Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation, October 2013 newsletter

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