Youth sailing: Looking at the alternatives

Published on March 5th, 2014

The 2014 US Sailing Leadership Forum in San Diego attracted 600 attendees from across the continent for three days of session. There was also a collection of boats on display, hoping to catch the eye of community or club sailing programs.

Among the sponsors was RS Sailing, which produces many of the popular dinghy classes throughout Europe. Among those interested in the RS Feva was local junior guru, Coronado Yacht Club Head Coach Jon Rogers.

“My first impression sailing the RS Feva,” noted Rogers, ” was it’s a perfect doublehander for 10 to 14 year olds because it gives kids the thrilling experience of A-symmetrical reaching like Olympic 49erXX and 49er classes, but with the comfort and stability you want for a stepping stone into more powerful boats like the 29er or 420.”

With eight new RS Feva XLs (race version) available, Rogers is looking forward to showcasing them this spring to the local kids (click here for details). He sees it as a fun doublehander for teams between 170-230 pounds.

“I recently coached a pair of 10 year olds and told them to put the spinnaker up and don’t take it down until coming back into the basin. They sailed all directions for a couple hours and never took the kite down. Now that’s fun! You can sail off a lee shore by just heading up because the Feva is that forgiving,” said Rogers.

Since 2004, the RS Feva has grown to over 5,500 boats worldwide, with 180 teams expected at the 2014 World Championship in France. But with the predominance of U.S. clubs now owning the boats, primarily the Club 420, is there room for another doublehander in the mix?

“Right now I think adding the sailboard element would work with many programs,” admitted Rogers. “Space limitations seem to hinder any more expansion of fleets. In Europe people tend to buy their own boats such as the O’pen Bic’s, Feva’s and 29er’s, whereas in the States we tend to rely on the club to make the purchase.”

With the Club 420 as the primary focus for youth racing in the U.S., what happens to the kids that want an alternative?

“I think most kids opt out of sailing at around 13-14 years,” observed Rogers. “This seems to be when most sailing classes are all about racing, or they are taking the same class over and over again.”

Imagine that … teenagers not all wanting the same thing.

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