Awarded for Excellence in Junior Sailing

Published on March 2nd, 2022

The Pacific Coast Yachting Association was founded in 1923 to promote yachting on the Pacific Coast of North America and Hawaii, and to facilitate that mission, the Garrett Horder Memorial Trophy is annually awarded for excellence in junior boating education.

While it is popular to measure junior programs by regatta results, enjoyment and retention proved to be the difference in 2022 as the Horder went to Silvergate Yacht Club (SYC) in San Diego, California.

Existing in the long shadow of the large and prominent clubs in its harbor, SYC’s non-racing junior program stood out in part because it teaches the pure love of sailing instead of competition.

“Making sailors for life is our priority, and we don’t take it lightly,” explained Program director Kent Prater. “We believe that pressure to always compete drives too many kids away from a sport they could enjoy for a lifetime.”

In his submission to PCYA, while paying respect to racing programs that also turn out lifelong sailors, Prater described his system as complementary, attracting certain kids who experience Silvergate’s offerings as a safety valve from the sharp focus of competition.

“We see success in how many of our first-time kids come back for additional weeks of sailing,” Prater said. “There’s also the kid who ages out and then comes back during college years to join our instruction staff.”

The practical limitations of the club’s site hold student numbers to about 14 in a program week. Sailors are aged 8 to 18, with never more than four students per instructor. That scale helps in dividing groups, whether age separated or mixed by ability or affiliation.

“We had great entries for the Garrett Horder award, an amazing fact considering the restraints of COVID,” noted PCYA Commodore Bobbi Campbell. “But one program rose above the others for inclusion and fun. Director Kent Prater knows how to share the great secret, that there is nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in boats, simply messing.”

Silvergate has a small keelboat for adventuring around San Diego Bay, but most instruction—including the weekly beach picnic/paddleboard extravaganza—takes place close to the base in a variety of dinghies including RS Fevas, Sabots, and O’pen Skiffs.

Prater notes how the O’pen Skiffs are ideal for un-regattas in which kids develop boat handling skills while they think they’re just goofing around capsizing on the whistle or aiming for the biggest splash.

“We do things a bit differently, and we work hard to create a program where kids from all backgrounds are excited to learn in a safe, non-competitive environment,” said Prater. “This award is a wonderful validation of the support we receive from our club members and, of course, the efforts of our volunteers who find their hours here gratifying and downright joyful.”

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