Accepting Responsibility for the Sport

Published on April 26th, 2017

Exposing young people to all forms of sailing improves the likelihood they will stay in the sport. Embracing this reality is Annapolis Yacht Club (Annapolis, MD) which has announced a youth initiative in conjunction with its popular Wednesday Night Racing (WNR) keelboat series.

The goal of the Junior Sailor Streamer Program (JSSP) is to pair juniors with boat owners who would like help sailing their boats during the 2017 WNR Series which runs from April to August.

“WNR is already a hallmark of AYC,” said Robert Shapiro, a former AYC Sailing Director who is now a Club member and Junior Fleet Committee Chair. “Now to include and reward the Junior Fleet sailors, I think it raises the game even more.”

JSSP sailors will be given their own 4-inch by 30-inch streamer which features the AYC Burgee and 20 inches of space for the juniors to proudly personalize their streamer to make it visible to WNR competitors and the Race Committee.

Each streamer is professionally made and will affix to the backstay with Velcro so the boat is recognized as not only a participant, but also a supporter, of JSSP. The junior sailor maintains possession of their streamer as they might sail on different boats during the WNR series.

The streamers for this inaugural season of JSSP have been purchased and donated by AYC member Dr. Pen Alexander, a staunch supporter of the Junior Fleet and a cofounder of JSSP.

Dr. Alexander, who, along with fellow AYC member Dick Neville, cooked up the idea of formalizing what had been a decades-long informal practice of juniors assisting boat owners during races, simply wanted to ensure that junior sailors are given the tools and opportunities to remain in sailing beyond their junior years.

“The idea is to give a little credit to the boaters who are taking juniors out, and have the kids stick with sailing,” Dr. Alexander said. “We need to accept responsibility for growing and maintaining the sport. It’s critically important to support the juniors and make them stay.”

Mr. Shapiro agreed: “We’ve tried all different elements and, in some ways, it did get kids out on boats, but never in a way that rewards boaters for bringing out juniors.”

Adding to the excitement of the program will be the creation of a new JSSP annual award to be presented at this year’s WNR Awards Ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, September 13. Boat owners will be recognized for their commitment to growing the participation of juniors in keelboats.

The award will be given to the owner with the most JSSP participants aboard their boat over each of the three WNR Series. The tally will be counted by the Race Committee at the series finish simply by adding the number of streamers flown off the backstay by each boat entered in the program.

“There’s a whole lot that kids can get out of this,” Dr. Alexander said. “If this program catches on, it can be really special.”

A WNR boat owner will communicate with the junior on where the boat is docked, boat call time, and a “rough” idea on when racing will be completed to allow the junior to coordinate their ride home. Juniors will be required to bring their own Personal Floatation Device, wear it always while aboard a boat, report to their boat on time, and hold to their commitment of sailing with the boat owner.

Sailors who are members of the Junior Sailing Program at Severn Sailing Association are eligible to participate in the AYC JSSP. Dr. Alexander, who was a junior sailor at his hometown California Yacht Club, used to read about SSA and what he calls the club’s “longstanding reputation.”

“There is a lot of respect for the tradition and heritage at SSA,” he said. “Among yacht clubs, it’s pretty neat to have an institution that cares enough about an initiative to extend that to its competition. That’s big boy stuff.”

Information and availability will be collected from the juniors through an online registration form. The information will then be used to help pair a junior sailor with a boat owner. Boat owners can contact the Junior Fleet office — (410) 263-9267 or — to indicate whether they have a need for crew for one race, a series, or for each of the WNR races.

The online registration for the juniors will include a waiver that may be signed electronically by the sailor and parent/guardian, which includes the junior’s personal and emergency contact information.

Any questions can be sent to AYC Sailing Director Jane Millman, Registration for junior sailors can be found on the WNR Series event page.

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