Selfishly Motivated, Righteously Justified

Published on October 27th, 2014

American Steve Benjamin may be known for his Olympic medal from the 1984 Games, or his professional work with North Sails, or his advocacy of the emerging High Performance Rule for handicapping planing boats, or for the Universal Measurement System which will soon be in place. But he should also be known for his support of junior big boat sailing. Steve explains

We are really lucky on Long Island Sound because there is a well-established program for junior big boat sailing. It is part of the Junior Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound. It is largely due to the work of Jim Lubeck, former Commodore at Bridgeport’s Black Rock Yacht Club, who got the program started. There are two major trophy races for juniors on the Sound that the clubs gear up for: Dorade Trophy Regatta, which is a one-day series of buoy races, and the Beach Point Overnight Race.

Each club has one or two boats – some have three – and staff them with juniors and advisors and participate in these competitions. There is a build up toward these events all summer, which are held in August at the end of the junior program season.

The kids need to be trained before these events, so we try to schedule 10-12 practices with kids so they are ready for these junior trophy races. These are typically done in the late afternoon, about 5:00, and we will go out for 2 to 3 hours for the training, and do some beer can races. Sometimes we will have 2 or 3 boats to spar with, and we try to make it fun.

However, we do include a competitive aspect to the training. We designate an A team and a B team. We try to get the newer kids to aspire to get on to the A team. Those will be the best kids who are more capable of handling the boat on an overnight race.

My involvement is selfishly motivated. A lot of the good crew that we have, had grown up through the junior ranks, with several that have joined our racing team. Our bowman right now is Robbie Kane. Robbie was just this type of kid, who started sailing with us at an early age, went on to the Morning Light Disney movie project, and now he’s our bowman on SPOOKIE. He is a great example of a recruit from junior big boat sailing that has now joined our crew.

The other thing that has been done, which is kind of cool, is incorporating a junior day into regattas. The Melges 32s have done this, whereby they specify that a junior comes with you for that day of racing. The kids really look forward to it, where they have the chance to get on these race boats, with great crew. It’s an honor for the kids; they aspire to get to the level where they would be selected for the event.

What the Storm Trysail Club does at their Block Island Race Week is to allow boats to carry one additional crewmember less than 14 years of age, which is not counted toward their maximum crew or crew weight calculation. In the HPR class that I sail in, we have an onboard position that is always designated as a guest position. We often use it for media, but it could be used for juniors too.

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