Seeing the light by going dark

Published on September 12th, 2019

The trend for all youth sports has been to slowly refine the model of age-based instruction and games, which has led to an ever increasing commitment and cost to compete. As kids either age out or burn out, and new parents take over leadership, the initial goal of play time can get forgotten.

When this model was applied to sailing, it was necessary to narrow the boat types, which has had a negative impact on the sport. While new parents are eager to support the system, what’s hard to see is how the diversity of sailing is its strength. By denying options, and promoting a singular structured scheme, kids either love it or leave it.

But not all programs are the same, and the MudRatz program is like none other. Led by parents, operating outside the confines that clubs can impose, they are eager to see youth sailors find the love in sailing, not just how to compete on a windward-leeward course. While encouraging aspects typical of most youth programs, they’re not afraid to go outside the box… way out.

Primarily serving the Connecticut and New England region, their latest scheme is a sportboat program that emphasizes night time sailing. The program, which begins September 14, was oversold in three days. Here’s their plan:

Sail GP

This season we will sail our four modified Melges 20’s on five Saturday evenings from 6 to 9pm. The focus of this new course will be on nighttime safety, navigation, and racing with the goal to offer high school age sailors an introduction to what a double-handed mixed crew event might be like!

This will be a new Sailing event for the Paris 2024 Olympics, and Mudratz are proud to be the ONLY youth group in the US with a focus on preparing our sailors for this type of an event.

The Melges 20s will have new short hoist mains that will balance the boat better with smaller crews sailing double- or triple-handed. We will make up the teams each week and provide each sailor with a lifejacket, harness, tether, and personal AIS beacon.

Participants will be required to bring their own foul weather gear, phone with Navionics app loaded, multi-tool, water bottle (single use water bottles are not allowed in our programs – ever!), and headlamp (must have red light option).

Coaches will cover safety procedures, help rig jack lines, and review lesson plan for the night. Teams will be off the dock before the sun sets for the first few weeks and have complete darkness by the end of each lesson. Learning sail trim, driving feel, avoidance of other boats and marks in the dark, will all be natural lessons of this activity.

Our 28’ RIB Dreamchaser will be the coach boat with personal and boat AIS monitoring capability on at all times. To be clear, that means if one of the inflatable lifejackets goes off, a personal overboard signal with the exact location will be immediately sent to the coach boat display screen.

For details on MudRatz:

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