Kids are buzzing, Hawaiian-style

Published on November 18th, 2020

It is the largest sheltered body of water in the main Hawaiian Islands, with this reef-dominated embayment constituting a significant scenic and recreational feature along the northeast coast of the Island of Oʻahu. Mike Hanson reports in Sailing World how the kids are using this playground:


There’s a buzz in the air on Kaneohe Bay. It’s not the buzz you might hear after a Transpac finish, or the buzz you will inevitably succumb to if you wander into the Waikiki YC bar on Friday night after beer can races. Nope, this buzz is coming from the waters off Oahu’s windward shore: a mob of Waszps buzzing the coach boat.

Oahu’s local Waszp fleet has grown to nearly a dozen over the past two years, with Kaneohe Yacht Club recently purchasing its second charter boat with the help of private donors and local hero Mark Towill, who hosts annual lectures to help fundraise for the Kaneohe Sailing Foundation. “I was a benefactor of the foundation when I was coming up,” Towill says, “so it’s great to be able to give back.”

Like many other junior ­sailors in Hawaii, Towill grew up sailing El Toros, Lasers and 420s. After successful junior- and college-sailing campaigns, he made the jump to the big leagues when he transitioned to ocean racing and competed in the Volvo Ocean Race with Team Alvimedica. With the next edition of the Ocean Race making the shift to foiling monohulls, it’s fitting that Towill, CEO of 11th Hour Racing, is helping to grow a foiling platform on his home waters.

“The best sailors are the most interdisciplinary ones,” Towill says. “The Waszp teaches a completely different skill set than the average youth dinghy. You might not learn the same kind of strategy and tactics, but the sport is getting more high-performance each year, so the more exposure we can give junior sailors to different kinds of sailing, the better.”

“If you look at the Olympics, three of the classes are going to foiling,” says KYC junior-­sailing director Jesse Andrews. “Half of our Waszp kids go foil-­windsurfing. The kite-foil has been popular here for a while. The Nacra is foiling now. We could even see a singlehanded foiling boat in the Olympics at some point, so it’s definitely the thing to be learning right now.”

Oahu has many obvious advantages as a sailing venue, but its major disadvantage is geography. The Hawaiian Islands is the most isolated island chain on Earth, making travel for big events prohibitively expensive. Such isolation has forced local youth sailing directors to get creative with their programs.

For instance, program directors use El Toros instead of Optis as the introductory singlehanded dinghy, and 10 years ago, they transitioned to the Open Skiff, which has become wildly popular with the advanced race kids. – Full report

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