Many Paths, One Common Goal

Published on February 6th, 2022

by Rick Bannerot, WindCheck
Some sailors are born into it. Others wander in by accident, and then there are those who moved up from dinghies to the world of “big boat” sailing.

The November/December 2021 edition of WindCheck recounted many notable junior big boat victories that generated headlines around the sailing world, including Young American winning the Vineyard Race in 2013, High Noon winning the 2016 Newport Bermuda Race, and Dreamcatcher’s victory in the 2018 Newport Bermuda Race.

Heady stuff, to say the least, but certainly not the be-all, end-all when it comes to making junior big boat sailing something that is not only fun, but also functionally instructive; building self-confidence, improving decision-making, and fostering more lifelong sailors.

A frequently mentioned goal is encouraging more young people to “go to sea.” Beyond that, regardless of the various paths available, is to have young men and women develop a sense pride and identity themselves as “sailors” not only as teenagers, but eventually as adults.

Talking with Peter Becker (Founder of the Young American Sailing Academy and the Young American Foundation in Rye, NY), about his experience with juniors on big boats, he keeps coming back to the concept of young sailors “becoming salty” to describe gaining effective problem-solving techniques, learning and using sailing skills appropriately, and developing confidence.

Becker strives to make the rather daunting idea of teaching teenagers to transition from going for a sail on a big boat into a teaching/learning process that breaks down the roles and responsibilities of the entire crew so they can all eventually sail the boat as a team.

From one side of Long Island Sound’s successful junior big boat sailing programs, we cross to Oyster Bay, NY where uber-accomplished sailor Dawn Riley is the Executive Director of Oakcliff Sailing. She has envisioned and successfully willed into existence through grit, determination, sweat equity, brains, fundraising, business acumen and no small amount of well-earned self-confidence what we see today. – Full report

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