The Growth of Junior Sailing in Hawaii

Published on August 17th, 2015

When the 3rd Annual Keith Dinsmoor Trophy Regatta gets underway on August 22-23, it will be the largest junior sailing regatta ever to be held in Maui waters, reflecting the growth of junior sailing in Hawaii.

“Junior sailing is growing by leaps and bounds on Maui,” noted Bruce Olsten of host Lahaina Yacht Club. “The boats are exciting to sail and there are motivated sailors and coaches, but the emphasis remains on sportsmanship, good clean fun, and instilling the joy of sailing in a new generation of children here in the islands. The kids are developing skills that will last for their entire lifetimes.”

The regatta will be sailed in the singlehanded O’Pen Bic and doublehanded RS Feva XL, which are a different youth track than the mainland boats such as the Optimist and Club 420 or Club Flying Junior.

“I have had many discussions with parents, coaches and clubs on this subject and our fleet choice really evolved from logistic considerations and our unique sailing environment here on Maui,” explained Ian Ponting, a Board of Director for Lahaina Yacht Club. “That said, we feel we have provided a good avenue for the youth sailors to merge in to the ‘traditional’ path boats, but these fiberglass-built classes are a non-starter here from a durability standpoint. We have reef, surf and got real tired of repairs.”

Half the competitors will be traveling from neighboring Oahu. “We have our reciprocal regatta on Oahu with Hawaii Kai Boat Club in the Feva and Bic,” noted Ponting, who has seen the travel side of youth sailing growing. “Some of the kids are involved in the SoCal Sabot scene and have seen good success there. We are working with the Royal Vancouver YC on an exchange program that runs in conjunction with the Vic-Maui race. We have also talked to clubs in San Francisco and Santa Barbara about this type of thing.”

Some of the kids are also participating in sailing beyond the youth-only events. “We have several kids who crew regularly on the big boats,” Ponting said. “They are sailing inter-island on race boats and we are talking about a youth-only crew for the inshore and possibly inter-island races.”

The only challenge seems to be capacity. “We have evolved quickly from one week of sailing camp three years ago to 30+ kids now trying every week, year round,” observes Ponting. “We have every boat filled and a waiting list coming out of our Summer Camp. We are maxing out our infrastructure, space is limited and as a volunteer-based program time is short. But the kids are stoked and we have a group of motivated parents and volunteers that make it happen! Our core group of coaches and directors are working hard to secure a plan for the future.”

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