Making a lifelong sailor out of me

Published on December 15th, 2021

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
As the youth sailing in the USA gained structured in the 1980s, the sailing experience for young people soon focused on age-based boats and regattas. While this allowed for improved organization and greater participation, it reduced the proficiency in other types of boats while missing the benefits of inter-generational opportunities.

In the 1970s, my teen years had me racing a variety of dinghies along with Windsurfers, Hobie 16s, MORC, and IOR boats. Each boat type opened the door to different social circles and adults that guided me. While I am in awe today of how High School and College Sailing has evolved, today’s youth path is described by 2-time Olympic medalist Charlie McKee as “learning more and more about less and less.”

I know of club junior programs that rate their success by the number of trophies won, however, a better mission is to instill in young people a love for sailing that will serve as a foundation for the future of the club and sport. These goals tend to be achieved differently.

But as today’s coaches are products of this narrow focus, are they well suited to pull back the curtains on our great sport? Not every new sailor enjoys the typical youth racing menu, and may quit the sport before they discover the other types of boating available.

More so, it is the organic experiences that grow deeper roots, which are the kind when a young person is learning by doing alongside adults. Sailing professional Tony Rey had that experience.

Growing up in Larchmont, New York, Rey started in dinghies but his passion for sailing soon included crewing on keelboats in the area. Tony continued to sail right through his high school and college years, making the Collegiate All American team at Connecticut College.

Now 54, Tony reflects on the impact Mort Weintraub, who recently passed, had on his life:

I was so fortunate to sail with Mort on his Ranger 33 Calvados and his J/33 Troubadour during high school and college. Those were formative years for me and I still count some of those teammates as lifelong friends.

This past June I joined some of them for Block Island Race Week, roughly 30+ years after my first time racing there with Mort, and it felt like this wonderful continuation of the Troubadour legacy.

Mort’s stewardship of our beautiful sport seemed effortless. He just loved fostering a team of friends and sailors of all levels to race together and make memories, and he helped make a lifelong sailor out of me.

Mort was an exuberant, joyful, giant of a man and I will always be grateful to have been on his team.

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