Blending of Experience and Passion

Published on December 5th, 2016

Double Olympic medalist Jonathan McKee was riding shotgun with Bora Gulari at the 2016 Melges 24 Worlds, finishing fifth overall. At 56 years (and mere days from his next birthday), McKee reports in Sailing World on the value of mixing in youth with adults…

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I am getting to be on the older side when it comes to high-level racing. One of the things I love is to sail with younger people (which is pretty much everyone) but especially really younger people. At this regatta, we had 14-year-old Kyle Navin sailing with our team. He comes from a sailing family in Wisconsin, but he has become an accomplished sailor himself. But sailing in a world championship with Bora Gulari is something else altogether!

Kyle is pretty chill, though. He does not act intimidated or scared, he’s just himself, and when I ask him about the wind or how we can improve our spinnaker drops, he’s ready with a good answer. Sure, he has a lot to learn. His mentor Buddy Melges, when he learned Kyle was sailing with us, suggested that he start a notebook with the things he learned each day.

But the funny thing is, us old guys learn from Kyle, too, and we feed off his enthusiasm and energy. I really think this is one of the keys to our sport; the cross-generational blending of experience and passion that benefits everyone. How many sports can say that? In what other sport can a top junior compete realistically for the world championship? I can’t think of any.

The first time I won the Melges 24 Worlds, in 2005, I had a similar scenario. We had a good team fronted by James Spithill, but our weights did not quite work out. So we asked the locals in Florida if there was a good junior who weighed about 90 pounds. We got an enthusiastic response that Mac Angese was our boy. And he turned out to be great.

Mac has gone on to be a first class skiff sailor, and I’m sure you will read his name in the future. We also became good friends with his parents. After all, we had to coordinate to get his homework done after racing. Well, Kyle is getting his homework done, too. He likes math and is very good at it. And I am pretty sure you will eventually be reading about him too. And I think I am a little bit younger by being around him as well.

Note: For additional reports from Jonathan during the Melges 24 Worlds…click here.

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