Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Youth sailing program evolution- what's next?

(Newport, RI)- Youth sailing program evolution in the past decade or more have often reflected both the needs of the sailing community as well as the socio-economic demographic trends that affect society worldwide.  What works in Mexico may not work in San Francisco, coincidentally the best for Solent RYA sailing programs isn’t a fit for Newport (either RI or CA).

An excellent commentary has evolved on this subject over recent times on the subject.  No matter what, all productive with good intentions and with the hoped for result that more people get involved in the sport of sailing.

For one, Peter Becker at American YC oversees their Junior Offshore program (email- pbecker@rockgrp.com) and comments that, “Three years ago we developed a format to get kids interested in and exposed to non-racing big boat sailing.... a junior over-night cruise which we call "Back to Basics".  The entire point was to get juniors to experience all the really great things you get to do on a big boat when you're not racing.  It has been a huge success with the juniors.  The JSA-LIS picked up the idea and now has our format presented on their website as a template for others to follow.”  Contact Peter because his kids recently sailed a J/122 offshore and beat some of the world’s best offshore racing programs in last fall’s 2013 Block Island Race classic— a mere 189nm race!

Along the same lines, a long-time J/24 and offshore sailor from Maine/ New England, Geoffrey Emanuel, had some excellent perspectives on youth sailing development.  After 49 years of racing and sailing, Geoffrey is not too impressed with what he has seen.  His sailing roots are New England, and his racing spans from singlehanded dinghies to 12 meters, offshore, coastal and lake sailing throughout the U.S., plus four years as a junior sailing instructor. After observing over time the evolution of youth sailing, Geoffrey describes how he believes it has negatively impacted the sport:

“I am thoroughly convinced that what sailing needs is a grenade rolled into the room I see full of ‘Status Quo’ thinking.

The vast majority of U.S. junior training evolved from a balanced effort to teach a love for sailing, seamanship and racing skills in the 1960s-1980s, to today’s disproportionate emphasis not only on racing but on winning. Junior sailing mimics the winning-is-everything mantra of almost all youth/school sports.

The unintended consequence of our current state is a rapidly declining interest in sailing by former junior sailing participants that have moved into adulthood. Most of the explanations for this phenomenon come across to me as excuses or defense of the Status Quo rather than an objective attempt to question everything with the sole interest to identify and solve the problem.”  Read more here about a timely article on youth sailing.