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The Water Rat is Right

Published on August 24th, 2016

by Joe Cooper, WindCheck magazine
One of the discussion threads I follow in the saltosphere is specifically about kids and sailing. This thread has a variety of aspects: Growing the sport of sailing, bringing existing young sailors into sailing for life, developing skills so they can be viable crew on big boats, and looking at ways to diminish the post-college sailor flameout are but a few.

Currently the timeline for kids is: Multi colored Opti programs, then 420s/Lasers, into college sailing, then hit rocks – Boom! – stop sailing. Getting a job, the costs of sailing outside school, and what their non-sailing mates are doing are amongst the welcome-to-being-an-adult scenarios that young sailors face. The one constant theme in all youth sailing in the U.S. at the moment is the racing track, more or less literally. This is slowly becoming recognized as self-defeating.

Our own son is an example of being pushed out of sailing by this racing meme. Three years of Optis and being yelled at to do this, that or the other, being placed two per boat with someone he did not know, and the special prize, capsize practice in deep water before he was confident enough to take it on. Pushing an 8- or 9-year-old into something things is a great way to have them not like it.

Fast-forward about three years or so, when enrolled in a non-racing program.

This otherwise typical week of sailing ‘camp’ placed him in a 420 with two other kids, both of whom he knew, in a program of sailing to different parts of lower Narragansett Bay, getting ice cream at the Ben & Jerry’s on Thames Street, pulling up on the beach at Rose Island, and simply hanging out with his mates in a sailing boat, all under the watchful eye of the ‘instructor.’ He came home totally stoked by the first day and, ultimately, the week. When we inquired about the program the next spring we discovered it had been withdrawn; apparently too hard on the boats and gear.

Full report… click here.

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