Getting Kids Involved in Offshore Racing

Published on September 1st, 2016

From a distance, nothing about was particularly remarkable about seven offshore racing boats that had gathered for a Friday race off Chicago’s lakefront. But when viewed up close, you could tell that something about this race was unique. All of the sailors driving the boats were kids.

This was the Chicago Yacht Club’s first ever Junior Night Navigational Race on August 19, with the winner to receive the Club’s prestigious Commodore’s Cup. The race was simple and fast – from Chicago Harbor Light to the Four Mile Crib and back in less than an hour. But in an unusual twist, kids under 18 were required to steer the boats and navigate the course.

“We are constantly looking for new ways to get more boats and more people on the water, including our kids,” explained Greg Miarecki, Chicago Yacht Club’s Commodore. “This event offered the kids a great opportunity to get more involved in offshore racing. They had a great time tonight.”

The kids seemed to agree, with 14 year old Liam McClimans steering Miarecki’s Ericson 35 Providence to victory. “Being in charge of such a big boat was really cool,” share McClimans. “I’ve raced c420s and Sonars but leading Providence with her racing history was cool. I liked seeing some of the kids I raced with this summer on the water.”

Second place went to Soulshine, a Beneteau 36.7 owned by CYC member Jarrett Altmin. “When we planned for the event, it was my desire to really let the kids take ownership of the boat,” Altmin said. “The adults did some of the physical grunt work, but the kids all drove for a time, they trimmed the jib, and they decided which direction to go. There were so many smiles and good vibes on the boat that it was one of the more fun things we’ve done in some time. I love to race sailboats, but sometimes you get bogged down in the work and the effort of running a racing program. To see the joy of sailing, and the pure fun of racing – through their eyes, was special.”

Five kids raced aboard Soulshine, including 12 year old Jack Baldwin. “I loved racing in a big boat more than I thought I would,” Baldwin admitted. “It was very different than the small boats I’m used to where I only have myself to rely on. We had to work together as a team and this time our team worked well. I am looking forward to doing more big boat racing.”

Ten year old Dylan Altmin added that “it was fun to sail with an all-kid crew on an adult boat. My favorite part was driving the start and finish.”

In third was another Beneteau 36.7, “Karma,” owned by CYC Rear Commodore Lou Sandoval and his brother Martin and assisted by a youth team of four girls and one boy. Nine year old Sofia Sandoval, who served as navigator, is already pushing for the next event. “I liked it a lot – the Club should do this again.”

Sofia won’t have to wait long as CYC is already hard at work planning for similar events during the 2017 season, and looks forward to welcoming more kids to the event in future years.

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