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A 110-Year-Old New Paradigm

Published on April 7th, 2022

In a series of WindCheck reports, Rick Bannerot has been seeking to enlighten the youth sailing world about big boat sailing. Considering it is the most inclusive section of the sport, here’s his tonic to stave off attrition:

Basic seamanship frequently starts with learning to tie knots. One of the problems at the heart of junior big boat sailing is that there are so many different metaphorical knots to learn, and even more to try to figure out how to undo, and therein lies the conundrum.

The solution to one knot is not always the answer for another, just as there are many different ways to solve the issues and challenges associated with creating successful, sustainable junior big boat sailing programs.

In those five innocuous words, anyone with any experience will quickly tell you about the myriad of different backgrounds, alternate experiences, complicated problems, extensive planning, the need for ongoing training and classroom work, on-the-water skilling and drilling, boat maintenance, mechanical repairs, sweat equity, and bloody knuckles.

Never mind the massive amounts of time and organizational effort, dealing with sacred cows, bruised egos, misplaced pride, perpetual money woes, and factoring in and allowing for alternative value systems and fluid perceptions and ever-changing goals from sponsors, parents, as well as the fluid constituency of today’s modern teenage sailors.

The previous three editions of WindCheck featured story lines that focused on different pathways for teenagers to learn how to enjoy sailing boats that are significantly larger than the traditional Optis, Lasers, 420s, and Ideal 18s, while doing it in a thoughtful, engaging, interesting, responsible and safe manner. Some of the common overlapping elements in these successful programs include first making the learning process fun.

The best programs create room and opportunity for their juniors to make mistakes (without raised voices, ahem). Then sailing mentors thoughtfully discussing how and what went wrong, with the young sailors suggesting and testing different ways to avoid repeating the problem.

One not so obvious commonality is across the best of the profiled youth big boat sailing programs, all cited the critical need to involve and integrate young men – and even more importantly young women – into big boat sail training and how crucial it is to ensure that there are no gender distinctions in any of the roles on the boat. – Full report

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