"When we bought a new sailboat this year, one thing on my mind was the advice of boats.com editorial director, John Burnham. “Don’t make the mistake I did,” he said. “Invite your kids to race with you while they still think you’re cool.”
Well, we just finished up a family trip to Florida to race our new J/70. I could’ve chosen a lot of different boats if I were the only one involved. My former college race buddies make a formidable crew in any boat. But the J/70 has a multi-purpose aspect that jumped out at me right off the design table. Here’s a sport boat that’s fun for my pals, but easy to handle for my family.
When we landed in Florida, it was 60 degrees, light wind, and lots of RAIN. Not what the brochure (or the old man) had promised. It took a bit of convincing to get the family into their fresh new foul weather gear but once they realized they would stay dry, we made it off the dock for an afternoon practice sail. The sails went up and down and everyone watching seemed impressed our family crew could do it. And at the end of the day we cheered as a hint of sunshine finally broke through.
When the official racing began the next day, we sailed our first race as a full family team. Dylan, 7, is the bowman/driver in a pinch. Lily, 10, is the jib trimmer and neat freak who keeps the middle of the boat tidy. My wife Cindy is the spinnaker trimmer and voice of reason. Dad does the boat work and drives.
Coaching was all about trying to do things in very slow motion and set up a rhythm for how each job was done. Crew placement, line locations, labels, terms, and new vocabulary were all our part of our “comfort level curve”.
Not that we didn’t have some frustrations. They say what goes up must come down, but that was not the case with our spinnaker. We just could not seem to get the hang of getting that thing back in the boat and spent a few mark roundings chasing it for a few extra minutes.
I usually make the tactical decisions around the course, but the kids made the best call of day. After the race, with the wind dying, they radioed the RC and said we’d be heading in — the pool was calling. This caused a domino effect, and the whole fleet soon followed suit.
Our crew work was flawless when it mattered most. After the kids radioed the RC, they jumped down below and pulled out the Torqeedo in its three easy-to-move, lightweight parts (battery, tiller and shaft). They assembled and lit up the engine, and we were off and running-- first place all the way in, for the all-important race to the dock and, more importantly, THE POOL!! Kids win.
When all was said and done, we could've sailed better as a team. However, I know we won our own personal victory; the kids are pumped to sail in the next event and try to do better!"