Making the Transition: Life After Youth Sailing

Published on June 22nd, 2015

by Bill Wagner, Capital Gazette
There has been considerable discussion and debate about how the United States trains its junior sailors. Some have suggested the current model, which features youngsters racing in Optimist and Club 420 dinghies from beginner through college, is not adequately developing the next generation of Olympic competitors.

Critics think American juniors should be introduced to more technical race boats at an earlier age so as to broaden their knowledge and skills.

Members of Annapolis Snipe Fleet 532 are doing their part to expand the horizons of local junior sailors, launching the inaugural Snipe Invitational to give area youngsters an opportunity to learn about a new type of dinghy racer.

Local members donated boats while Severn Sailing Association provided the facilities, with a total of 30 junior sailors participating in a two-day event that consisted of a clinic and seven-race regatta.

“We got tremendous feedback from the participants, parents, and the local sailing community about how beneficial the event was for the kids and how it would certainly help to grow the local fleet, the Snipe class, and the sport of sailing in general,” said Lisa Pline, who along with husband Alex helped to organize the event.

Modeled after a similar event that has been conducted by the Miami-area fleet for the past four years, these invitational events are designed to give juniors and recent college graduates a glimpse of what this particular one-design dinghy has to offer.

Pline recalled how much fun she had racing Snipes along with a cadre of post-college friends and felt an obligation to introduce the next generation to the class. Her daughter, Lexi Pline, participated in last year’s Miami Invitational and had a blast, fostering the idea that such an idea would work in Annapolis as well.

“The Annapolis area has such strong high school and junior programs, it seemed a natural fit for our fleet to bring those sailors together with recent alums to show them a type of dinghy sailing they can continue to do as they grow out of 420 programs,” she said.

A big part of what makes the Snipe more technical than a 420 is the fact the mast can be raked backward or forward in order to alter the sail shape based on wind conditions. That concept was eye-opening to most of the juniors, who were encouraged to experiment with rig setup.

“The Snipe can help post-420 sailors learn about the more technical aspects of sailing while keeping the emphasis on tactics,” Pline said. “It can also help them understand that sailing is a life sport that they can connect to wherever their travels takes them.”

Jonathan Bartlett of North Sails-Chesapeake, a veteran of the Snipe and Penguin class and former junior sailing instructor at Severn Sailing Association, applauded Snipe Fleet 532 for its outreach efforts.

“Well Done! I was so happy to see the local kids sailing Snipes. The lack of knowledge that kids have regarding adjustable rigs, which is a product of today’s junior programs, has caught up to even the Olympics. Thank God for the Snipe fleet,” remarked Bartlett. – Capital Gazette, full story

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