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Offering a bigger experience of sailing

Published on June 8th, 2023

When the youth sailing is administered by clubs, the mission to introduce the sport to new generations is sprinkled with the intent of making future members. All good except when it isn’t, as the programs tend to be administered by parents without a long view.

When Kimball Livingston was the 2016 Commodore of St. Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco, CA), he led an initiative that changed the focus of his club’s youth program. Call it wisdom, call it leadership, we call it caring about the long view.

Now with the title of Staff Commodore Ambassador to Youth Sailing, Kimball offers this update:


I follow, fascinated, the stream of Scuttlebutt commentary expressing pride, dismay, optimism/pessimism and, occasionally, disdain for the state of youth sailing in this moment when everything is happening at once.

Sayonara to the days of advancing automatically from this little-kid boat to that big-kid boat.

At StFYC, after years of fretting that we couldn’t get teens kiting because of our windy, current-ridden waters—and sending kids elsewhere to learn—we’re teaching foiling at last. First on a tow-behind. Then the kids get their wings.

So far, we’ve produced no experts to follow in the footsteps of our world champion kite sailors, but our newly-minted, foiling 15-year-olds are about same age as 6-timeFormula Kite World Champion Daniela Moroz when she first launched from Crissy Field Beach. Wingfoils, not kites, are the key.

All my kids want to foil. That’s why the dinghy park is not Waszp-free.

Everything happening at once? We’re planning a free one-day clinic for Fevas and Teras on the Friday ahead of their PCCs July 22-23. We believe in Teras as singlehanded trainers and Fevas as a doublehanded tweener. Both fleets deserve to grow, and the reasonably-priced Feva, with its asymmetric kite and rotomolded skiff shape, is a planing, stepping-stone thrill ride.

That is why we’re offering clinics for both fleets, and that is why we’re making the clinics free, with the St. Francis Sailing Foundation making it possible. Tera coaching is TBA, but we know that Feva World Champion Ben Hutton-Penman will coach Fevas. That’s one big, ya’ll come.

Meanwhile, a cadre of our older teens will soon be off to C420 regattas on Lake Michigan and the Mysterious East Coast. The C420 was designed in 1959, so cutting edge it’s not, but with C420s we get to teach spinnaker and trapeze, unlike the white-sail FJs we have to sail to participate in fall semester High School Sailing in District PCISA.

The Curmudgeon will recall that StFYC blew off spring-semester high school sailing in 2018 to offer a bigger experience of sailing.

Just as every club has its own character, capabilities and limitations, we work with ours. For clarity: Any of our seven high school teams that choose to race high school regattas on their own in the spring are supported with boats and encouragement, sans coaching. Some do it, and it’s good for them.

Also: Our coaches care very much about the big-picture fun factor to set a hook for lifetime sailing. The kids get their giggles. A kid can be a kid around here, but our home in the maw of the Golden Gate wind funnel does not accommodate casual picnic outings. We have an island in the Sacramento Delta for that.

And when it comes to the popular game of comparing class versus class, it occurs to me that for as long as I’ve been sailing, I’ve had friends in Southern California agonizing over the value of Sabots, with their leeboards and a distribution of 100 miles, versus Optis with a reach that girdles the globe.

Not to worry about the subset of over-ambitious parents who pop up in any class, I observe simply that SoCal kids sail Sabots, and SoCal kids sail Optis, and when they move to their next boats, they’re the same sailors.

Everything-everything happening-happening at once? Hoel Menard as a teen skipper was part of our brief flowering as a center of ripping it in Nacra 15 performance catamarans. Now he tells me he’s still learning, sailing alongside UC Santa Barbara sailors in pokey ole FJs.

We’ll be running our Opti Heavy Weather Regatta, with a Slalom, June 16-17, and someone in the club will ask the Annual Question, ‘If we sold off all our Optis in favor of Teras, because a Tera is a boat, not a box, and you don’t have to sail-and-bail, sail-and-bail, why run a regatta that our own kids won’t enter?’

The answer will remain the same: Because it’s a great event. Kids from Vancouver to San Diego come here to race and get thrashed and go home with bragging rights. Ask Charlie Buckingham how he felt when he won the first one in 2002.

By the way, none of our kids worry about any of this [deleted].

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