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Give Kids the Opportunity to Love Sailing

Published on September 22nd, 2015

As President of Melges Performance Sailboats, Andy Burdick had a good summer juggling his professional and personal responsibilities. After winning two scow class nationals this year with his kids as crew, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checked in with Andy for an update…

Tell us about the Burdick family plan
I have been racing with our two kids for the last three summers on the C Scow. When we first started out my daughter Mya was 8 and my son Finn was 6. We would go to most of the regattas, race here at home on Lake Geneva (WI) and just generally go out sailing for fun! My wife even sailed with us when it was windy – 4 people on a C scow, not the norm.

This year they are 11 and 9 and we were a lot more competitive on the racing circuit, culminating in our win at the C Scow National Championship on Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota. It was a fantastic experience for all of us as sailing / racing teaches all of us things about life. The ups and downs and how you need to persevere to succeed in anything. This regatta was a perfect example of that.

Our goal was to be in the top 5 of the event. In many instances we found ourselves at the first windward mark in the 20’s or even 30’s out of the 65 boats competing. My daughter would show signs of discouragement as she saw that we may not meet our goal of a top 5 overall finish. During the race I would talk about a never quit attitude and how we had to work extra hard to move up and get a good result in the race. The motivational talks worked as we did catch up. More than anything, it teaches you to always work hard.

My 9 year old son, Finn also sailed with me on the MC Scow this summer, with 93 boats on the starting line at the Nationals. Pewaukee Yacht Club hosted the event – another fantastic yacht club and scow lake. We won this regatta as well. Again, having a lot of fun together and learning as we go. There were some other great events mixed in there too. Bottom line is – we have had a blast as a family sailing and racing.

I don’t know what you are like on the race course…have you had to modify your competitive personality?
My competitive personality has been modified for sure. There are still times when I get a little too “ramped up”. The kids help me keep it in perspective. As we race we discuss what we are doing that night – is there a pool at the hotel, what other kids will come over and swim, where we will go to dinner – this is all during the race! Yes, there have been a lot of modifications on my part!

The scow classes seem to have a culture that promotes ‘inter-generational’ teams. Is there anything in particular that encourages this climate?
The Inland Lakes Yachting Association has been a fantastic organization to be a part of. They do pass down the love of the sport for generations. We see it with so many families. I personally feel very fortunate to be a part of this group.

What encourages this climate? Don’t take it all too seriously! Go out and enjoy the sport of sailing. Include your kids or include others and give them an opportunity to see what sailboat racing is all about. Be a family and do it together.

The approach is a theme here at the new Buddy Melges Sailing Center on Lake Geneva. Bottom line is – give the kids an opportunity to fit into an adult team, race, perform and learn. Lots of learning. By including them we realize that winning may not happen but we do realize that the fun factor will be high. The stories will be endless and the learning will be for life. Over time, I have been really impressed with the sailing my kids have done and what others have done too.

Sailing around all day long in a single-handed boat is not the answer for the long term love for the sport. The answer is make it a family thing. Make it a fun for all ages and include them on all kinds of boats. Cross training in a sense. The kids get pretty darn good at a young age. You don’t have to win. You just have to create the experience.

Sailing is a lifetime sport. It does need to happen all at once…..lay the foundation for the love of the sport now so your kids enjoy the sport for a lifetime!

Any tips for others that would like to have a positive experience racing with their kids?
Go sail with your kids! That is what I have been telling my friends and others. Give the kids an opportunity to fit into a team. Let this experience supplement their sailing school time and other sailing. Make it an adventure. Go to new venues and new regattas. Meet new people and make the kids a major part of the social experience. They will quickly adapt to the sailing and to the social side of things too. It is amazing!

So you have solved your crew issues for awhile.
You would think that as they get older (bigger and stronger), I would be sailing more with my kids, but this summer found them on other boats though much of the time. They have officially branched out sailing with other great sailors at our club and of course sailing with their friends. It is great to see them want to do things on their own, make arrangements to sail and crew with others on their own. They now have the love of the sport in them!

My son, who is all of 60lbs, has worked his way on an A scow (38ft. of pure power scow sailing) with some great sailing friends – Vincent Porter, Dave Navin, Chris Impens, Greg Gifford and Ryan Fitzgerald. Finn loves it and even at 60lbs thinks he is contributing to the team. So, the kids are making the sport their own too. The kids are figuring it out and have learned that sailing with others is great fun.

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