Getting beyond the age-based bubble

Published on February 21st, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
In his report for Sailing World, Hall of Famer Gary Jobson was stunned how a group of young sailors didn’t identify with the modern-day champions in Sailing. But if you think about it, why would they?

Youth sailors now compete in isolation, racing in age-based events in dinghies for teenagers. Their awareness beyond that may be limited, and likely coached by people who had a similar youth experience.

The current paradigm has youth sailors exposed to the best in their age group, and then are challenged to discover a sport (and its heroes) once they age out. As Gary spoke at this junior regatta, it is lucky he and his 1977 America’s Cup victory had an audience at all.

Three-time Olympic medalist Mark Reynolds offers his view on the topic:

If today’s young sailors want to be the best they can, they need to learn from the top sailors that came before them.

When Robbie Doyle was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame, he reminded us that we got here by standing on the shoulders of those that came before us. If you don’t know who those sailors are, and are not learning from them, you are missing out.

I attended an awards dinner years ago and saw baseball greats Tony Gwinn siting with Ted Williams, no doubt partly due to respect but I’m sure Tony had more than a few questions about hitting from Mr. Williams.

When I was a kid, my bible was Paul Elvstrom’s book “Dinghy and Keelboat Racing” and “Elvstrom Speaks”. I couldn’t wait to get my “One Design and Offshore Yachtsman” (I’m not as old as Gary!) to devour Peter Barrett’s column and attempt to understand Dr. Walker’s.

I hung out at the local sail loft because that’s where the local good sailors worked and I also learned about sails. I did the same at Hall of Famer Carl Eichenlaub’s boatyard and learned about what makes a fast boat. In school, I worked for Dennis Conner at his drapery factory, and it wasn’t because of any interest in drapes. I went to talks given by Elvstrom, Melges, Barrett, Tillman, etc. I later worked for Lowell North, Blackaller and Barrett.

You may not always be lucky enough to meet great sailors that came before you, and you may have to dig a bit, but you can still find plenty of literature by or about them and there’s a lot to learn.

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