Coop’s Corner: Kids on Boats, Again…or still?

Published on September 10th, 2014

by Joe Cooper, WindCheck magazine
Just in case this is your first reading of Coop’s Corner, a word of advice: If you are not interested in learning the myriad ways you can get involved with introducing teenagers (and younger) to sailing on something with an interior, a head, a galley and bunks, aka a Big Boat, skip this column. If you think this is a good and worthwhile thing to be doing, read on

Five boats competed in the Youth Challenge division of the 10th edition of The Ida Lewis Distance Race in August, 150-nautical mile overnighter that originates out of Newport, RI. The basic requirements to enter this class are that 40% of the crew be between 14 and 20. This year’s Youth Challenge was interesting in that there were two Class40s: Icarus/North Sails Youth Challenge and Toothface, as well as a J/111, a J/88, and Oakcliff Racing in a Farr 47.

Reflect on this list of boats for a minute if you will. How many teenage kids have the opportunity to get onboard a Class40 (okay, outside the Atlantic Cup), let alone do a race on a Class40…against another Class40 to boot? Actually there were five Class40s racing, although the other three raced doublehanded with adult crews.

I am the Youth Coordinator for the Ida Lewis Distance Race, so inquiries about getting kids on boats route through me. Like many things, a new idea often takes time to grow roots, let alone sprout buds. Historically, I have printed fliers advertising the Storm Trysail Foundation’s Junior Safety-at-Sea seminars and the Ida race and visited Sail Newport during Opti and 420 regattas, papering the parking lot and going boat-to-boat, handing them to the kids, parents and coaches. That’s a really hard way to get the word out.

Then there are emails to my own kids (well, I think of them as my kids), the Prout School Sailing Team, seven of whom were aboard Icarus. This involves emails to the sailors and their parents, postings to the team’s Facebook page and to my own page, since I am “friends” with several of them outside the team’s page…and texting. And sometimes I call a couple of the team’s primary instigators and ask them to spread the word. There are also emails to the coaches of the other Narragansett Bay schools we sail against, plus one to the New England Schools Sailing Association (NESSA).

So, for the first few years of the Youth Challenge, I had to be hectoring the kids I know even up to August, about going for a sail in the race. This year it was a bit different. The Youth Challenge appears to have taken root and sprouted some buds. I had my first inquiry from a junior sailor (not his parents) in May, and several in June, which is an absolute record.

Click here for full report.

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