Do more trophies boost participation?

Published on February 5th, 2024

While the top of J/70 one design racing is laden with hot professional crew and crisp sails, the J/70 International Class Association hopes to boost activity in the new edition of the J/70 Class Rules which includes two new initiatives: Young Crew and Mixed-Plus.

According to the Class, the Young Crew and Mixed-Plus fleets are “designed to grow the pipeline into the big-fleet keelboat racing the J/70 Class” by supporting “populations that have historically had fewer opportunities.”

These two subdivision racing classes join recognition already offered for Corinthian and One-Pro teams. Amid the commitment and cost to win in the J/70 Class, is this the future to attract participation? Here’s the pitch by the J/70 International Class Association:

The Young Crew division incentivizes teams with an entire crew under 25 years old. The initiative is meant to allow for more opportunities for young sailors.

“It definitely helps people who have graduated college and want to get into the next level of sailing,” said 24-year-old Carl Eaton, tactician on Loki, one of the Young Crew entries at the J/70 Midwinter Championship. “This helps bridge that gap. It’s awesome that they gave us this opportunity.”

Eaton’s home club, Wayzata Sailing, is one of the clubs leading the way in the Young Crew division by providing club-owned boats, financial support, and opportunities for young sailors to learn and test their mettle by racing in the J/70 class, an international fleet with both professional and Corinthian participation.

“We can’t wait to find out how we shake out against some of the best sailors in the world,” said the 24-year-old. “Growing up at Minnetonka, we sailed against Joel Ronning and seeing him win World Championships has been a huge inspiration to us. It’s great to see how we’ve come from scholastic and collegiate sailing to the keelboat world.”

The Mixed-Plus division incentivizes teams made up of no more than two men over 18 years old. The initiative is meant to allow for more opportunities for women and families.

“We like sailing as a mixed team because it diversifies the boat,” said Annie Samis from Chicago Yacht Club. “For me, I only sail with girls. I’ve never actually sailed with guys before. So, being in the Mixed-Plus category allows me to work with people I normally wouldn’t work with and learn from. Our team is Mixed-Plus and also One-Pro because we also have Esteban Forrer, the head coach of Rollins College, on our team.”

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