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The Scourge of the Center Console

Published on May 13th, 2015

By Andrew Burton

It seems every time I hear anyone talking about racing sailboats, sooner or later the question of growing the sport comes up, how do we keep young people interested in sailing. I think I may have hit upon part of the problem. I ran into a friend, a hot racing sailor, with two small children. He mentioned that he had just bought a 23-foot center console powerboat so he could get his kids on the water. And there lies the problem; instead of introducing his children to the sport he loves, he is taking them power boating.

At the age that my friend’s children are, my father and his friends had us sailing on their small cruiser-racers. Every school holiday, we’d be out for at least a week or two and there would be many long weekend cruises, too. Eventually, we joined in the Wednesday night races with our dads. (But only after getting good grades at school!) But my friend, because he was concerned about his kids getting bored on a sailboat, had decided that the small powerboat was the key to getting them out on the water. That’s not going to instill in them a lifelong love of sailing, as our fathers managed to instill in us.

My suggestion to parents is to drop the idea of getting a center console powerboat, get a small cruiser-racer, and get your kids out sailing. Let them take the helm and feel the rush when a gust hits! Even a 23-footer is a big powerful boat when you’re used to an Opti!

If Dad or Mum needs to compete at a level where there’s no room for little kids, get a second boat; a used J/24 can be had cheap and give you all the competition you need in PHRF or one design. But they main thing is to take your kids out sailing on a boat where they can go below and have a nap, or scramble about the foredeck in the spray and help, if they want.

You loved it as a child, why wouldn’t they? Will they get bored and cranky and be a pain? Sometimes that will happen, of course. But later in life they will thank you for your patience, as I did my father. And they will grow up sailing and one day will introduce their children to the sport they love. Just sticking them in the junior program for three weeks in the summer isn’t enough.

A friend put it this way: Sailing is like reading and power boating is like playing a video game. Which would you rather your kids do?

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