Charting a course through junior sailing

Published on September 7th, 2021

A four-time Collegiate All-American at Dartmouth College (’95) and a member of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in the Women’s 470 Class in the 1990s, Whitney Peterson is currently found frostbiting SeaDog dinghies in the winter and promoting youth sailing in the summer.

As the incoming Commodore of Sachem’s Head Yacht Club (Guilford, CT), she has run the club’s junior sailing program for almost a decade. In a report Whitney wrote for WindCheck magazine following the 2021 RS Feva North American Championship, she shares some observations on promoting the sport through the early years:

We started our Feva fleet at Sachem’s Head in 2018, when we realized we had a group of kids that liked to sail but were not excited about racing Optis and were not ready for 420s. The Fevas have been a huge success at our club, and have helped us retain a critical group of kids between the ages of 9 and 14 that may have otherwise left the sport over the past three years.

SHYC leases six Fevas from The Boat Locker, and we use them in our Adventure Sailing classes and Tween/Teen Race programs. Our tween and teen racers train in a variety of boats including Optis, Fevas, and C420s. I think it is important to let kids sail a variety of boat types, and to mix it up often.

Fevas are fun to sail, dynamic in style and responsiveness, playful, and have a quick learning curve for using the asymmetrical spinnaker. These characteristics make them popular with nearly all the kids in our programs.

My youth sailing philosophy is rooted in offering choices in both boat types and junior programing options that keep the most kids involved in the sport. There are many different pathways through youth sailing, all of which can lead to developing future racers, college sailing stars, weekend cruisers, sailing enthusiasts, leaders of our sport, and stewards of our oceans. Our sport needs all types of sailors.

Our job as youth program organizers is to keep kids involved in sailing so they can chart their own course forward.

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