Venture Beyond Age-Based Sailing

Published on May 26th, 2016

As youth sailing has evolved, it has separated itself from mainstream sailing. While this has strengthened its structure and schedule, it has come at the detriment of organic mentoring.

Today’s young people are directed by professional coaches, but there was a previous era when young people were counseled by their older competitors. Mark Rastello, who recently died much too early, was one of those older competitors.

J Boats technical manager Ned Jones recalls how Rastello offered the kind of guidance that extends well beyond the tuning guide. Here’s Ned’s story:
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I was fortunate to join the International 470 Class at the spry age of 14. With my boat purchased from Dave Ullman, I set out to learn how to sail the new Olympic double handed dinghy.

I was basically clueless, but with fun and like-minded crews of Brooks Benjamin, Jack Franco, and Jordy Murphy, I cut my teeth learning how to compete against some of the best dinghy sailors in North America. Mark Rastello was in the Class then, and we sailed against him often.

I clearly remember and appreciate Mark for his open and giving style, both on and off the water. Mark would sail up to us between races and share his unsolicited thoughts and recommendations, almost as if he was a coach. He was older, more experienced, and very established as a champion sailor.

I felt he had no business dealing with my amateur program. He stood out among his peers with his interest in sharing his experiences, skills, passion and love for sailing. And he was amazingly talented.
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Ned’s experience came in the late 70s, well before youth boats such as the Club 420 and Club Flying Junior which now dominate junior sailing. While these North American training boats have contributed to significant growth in youth sailing, for a young person to really learn how to play the game, they need to venture beyond age-based events and compete gunwale to gunwale with older sailors.

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