Rise and rise of Junior Big Boat Sailing

Published on November 30th, 2021

by Rick Bannerot, WindCheck
I’ve had the pleasure of photographing sailing on western Long Island Sound for 20+ years, ranging from Opti dinghies to Maxi yachts and just about everything in between. I am routinely gobsmacked by the growth of junior sailing, particularly juniors sailing on, and in fact actually sailing “big boats” ranging from keelboats like Sonars on the small side to 60-foot bluewater distance racers.

Adult racers and cruisers always seem to be moaning about the need to “attract more junior sailors.” Some of the old refrains go: “There aren’t enough young sailors in the pipeline,” and “How are we going to bridge the gap between Laser/420 sailing, kids going off to college, and then we don’t see ‘them’ until they are 35+ years old, married/with kids, and then they get the ‘itch’ to return to sailing?” and the classic line about letting kids sail big boats, “That is like tossing the keys to your Ferrari to a teenager!”

To those points, interest and participation in junior big boat sailing on the Sound certainly waxes and wanes with “enlightened” adults, pulses of enthusiastic club sailing directors, and the support of sailing clubs’ flag officers. Unfortunately, many supporters of junior big boat sailing move through their positions of influence and ability to commit club and personal resources in terms of staffing and finance in five- to eight-year timeframes. What is interesting is the cadre of future thinkers that are moving beyond the cyclical nature of junior big boat boosterism and putting long-term programs together.

What remain constant positive forces are the ever-present junior sailing association directors (like Bob Whittredge of the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound) and their management of junior sailing activities. Safety-at-Sea seminars, such as those presented by US Sailing and the Storm Trysail Foundation are a critical component for imparting the vital knowledge and safety requirements that all sailors – not just juniors – need for any of the overnight, distance and bluewater races. – Full report

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