Direct pipeline to next level sailing

Published on April 21st, 2021

In The One Design Line, US Sailing’s e-Newsletter for one design sailors, 2NINER skiff coach Philip Muller discusses how the 29er Class can be the gateway for the next generation of sailors:

How does getting involved in skiff sailing as a youth sailor help them transition into the adult world of one design sailing?

The skills we focus on and develop in high-performance racing embolden sailors to succeed in sport and life. The speed and pace of racing forces you to be forward thinking.

I spent a lot of time as a youth sailor talking to myself, frustrated while slogging around the course. Learning to focus on a solution rather than the problem is what high-performance racing is all about. Something is going to go wrong, and it is up to you to put the fire out and get back to racing. If that is not a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.

As far as life opportunities, high-performance sailing opens doors. Our role at 2NINER is to develop and connect talent to a larger network of experts within our sport. Whatever a sailor’s goal or interest, we support them and introduce them to our larger sailing family. Graduates of our youth program are current Ivy-League collegiate athletes, Olympic-class campaigners, professional sailors, and World Champions.

What does the future hold for these youth sailors as they grow up? Is the vision that they stay in skiffs or foiling boats? Or are they learning skills from skiffs that can be transferred across classes?

The 29er class is a direct pipeline to next level sailing. Crews develop explosive strength, coordinated accuracy and precision hand and footwork. Sail trim is an ever-moving target in apparent wind sailing, it takes a lot of focused training to manage so many things in order to constantly put the sails in the sweet spot.

Skippers develop a heightened sense of feel and awareness of performance of the boat. The skipper’s ability to put the boat in the right spot and remain calm, cool and collected under pressure is a skill every human needs.

Communication between the helm and crew is everything. To be in harmony with the boat and each other, and then scan the water to make split second tactical decisions requires a depth of skill that prepares athletes for any challenge our sport has to offer.

So, what does the future hold?

The future is fast. After practice we go foiling or kiting for fun. These skills require dynamic athleticism learned by trapezing, hoisting, and trimming while on the knife’s edge prepares athletes for the next level.

Skills of teamwork, communication, and discipline are welcomed universally. Take a quick scan of the pro circuit Etchells, Melges, and J fleets and you will find high performance sailors scattered throughout.

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