Empowering juniors to achieve goals

Published on July 5th, 2021

When a region has a history of strong high school sailing programs, and developing successful college sailors, it is due an organizational focus on that segment of youth sailing. That’s been the case in Southern California, which can make it challenging to promote other options for teen sailors.

But options and variety improve retention and skill, so after knocking down some barriers, skiff sailing is making inroads to the status quo. In this report by coach Jon Rogers, he shares the value in this shift:


In February 2021, as COVID restrictions were loosened, 14 sailors started a 9-week introduction to 29er program. None of the Sabot, Laser, or C420 sailors had ever been on a skiff, and to see their excitement for sailing grow was exhilarating for everyone involved.

Since 28 kids had signed up for that initial offering, it was quickly decided to add 7-weeks for the wait-listed sailors. The High Performance Youth Sailing (HPYS) 29er Development Program was born.

The highlights of the 16-weeks were many, but the biggest was the impact of the program’s sailors who were also San Diego Yacht Club Junior Board Members. These kids made the whole program possible, spending hours on the six donated 29ers, sailing them, repairing gear, making new halyards, fixing the masts … for nothing other than wanting more people sailing and racing the 29er.

Those same six kids just placed 1st (Ian/Noah Nyenhuis), 4th (Anton Schmid/Peter Joslin), and 11th (Samantha Gardner/Alice Schmid) at the 29er US Nationals in June 25-27 in Bristol, RI. They also regularly jumped into our development team practices which provided the “greenhorns” the chance to see how it’s done and what they could be like in a couple years.

When I think of these kids, I know Howie Hamlin, who had recently visited with them and has been so instrumental in promoting a team approach within the 505 Class, would be so proud.

Another highlight was Wyatt Kelly, a very athletic sailor who still competes in the Sabot. He crewed all 16 weeks, raced two regattas and weighs 90 pounds, soaking wet. His (and Skipper Bella’s) resilience on the first day of the NOOD regatta in 12-16 knots was inspiring.

The HPYS program and HPYS Boat Grant Program supports San Diego area sailors and is funded solely by donations and supported by volunteers. By providing affordable access to boats and high-level coaching, the HPYS program empowers motivated juniors to achieve their goals.

Building this foundation of skills is critically important for competitive participation in all kinds of higher-level racing such as the US Youth Sailing Championships, Youth Sailing World Championships, and the Olympics.

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