Don’t stop sailing after youth programs

Published on October 14th, 2019

When Steve Reid needed to rebuild his racing crew a few years ago, he decided to look to an untapped resource: Etobicoke Yacht Club’s Junior Sail program in Etobicoke, ON. His spouse and steady crew Maggie had decided she wanted to pursue other hobbies, and his successive crews had moved on to other things.

Looking around, Steve realized EYC’s popular junior teaching program was turning out one competitive racer after another who had nowhere to go once they graduated out of the dinghy program. At the same time, some of the keenest junior sailors were casting longing glances at the keelboat fleet. Steve invited a couple of them to come on board his boat Still Knot Working as crew and has never looked back.

In the four years since then, some of EYC’s best and brightest Junior Sail graduates have come on board Steve’s C&C 27 to learn both racing strategy and keel boat handling from a seasoned and winning sailor.

Now Steve is out to spread the word to other clubs and other racers around the lake and Canada: Take a good, hard look at the potential in your junior sail programs. Steve suggests thinking of them not only as a great source of crew talent, but also as the future of sailing — and sailing clubs. “After all, who are we old guys all going to sell our boats to?” he asks with a chuckle.

“Getting and keeping racing crew is for all of us a daunting challenge. The solution is to find a source that is constantly being refilled — and that’s the great junior sail programs run by clubs all over North America and Canada.

“At EYC we run more than 200 kids though the program each summer. These 13- and 14-year-olds sailing Optis, Lasers, Fevas and other dinghies are tremendously skilled in sail handling, racing tactics and being at the helm. They are totally capable of filling virtually any position on a keel boat. And they’re strong — stronger than you might think; they’re keen and they love learning.”

Andrew Kanarek and Sean Wylie, two of his first recruits who recently raced Still Knot Working to first place in its class in the Lake Ontario 300 Challenge, Scotch Bonnet course, say that opportunity is what has kept them in the game.

“Before I was invited to race on Still Knot Working I really had no idea how or if I’d sail past my time in the Junior Sail Program. After finishing my first season with Steve and the guys, I had a fun and easy way to be able to race consistently after I left the Junior Sail,” Sean says. – Full report

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