Thursday, July 12, 2018

Youth Sailing Programs- Ways to Fix Them

J/70 Youth team Many Youth Sailing Programs are Failing, but there are Ways to Fix Them

There is no doubt that competitive pressure on kids is resulting in the decline of sailing in some youth sailing programs.  However, this trend can be reversed.

Twenty years ago, our club established a sailing camp.  In the early years, we had about ten kids, but sixteen years later, we hit a peak of 92 with ten on the waiting list.  This was about 10% of all the school-aged children in town.

We supplement our racing program with a set of skill-building games.

By far the most popular game is “pirates”.  The kids are divided into teams of five - a merchant captain, two coastguardsmen, and two pirates.  The activity is so popular that we tell the kids they cannot play it until they sail expertly, which usually happens about the middle of the summer.

The second most-liked game is “sailing Frisbee”.  It uses a start/finish line, a race course and Frisbee or aerobie for each team.  A boat cannot tack while in possession of her Frisbee.  The Frisbee must go around the course, no shortcuts!

J/70 youth teamNext is “sail-ball”, a field/team sport for sailors, like football, lacrosse, soccer, etc.  There are two goals and two teams.   Like soccer, play is continuous, with teams throwing the ball to each other to get it in the goal (usually a floating water polo net).  Within the three-boat length circle around the goal, defense has the right of way, otherwise racing rules apply.

“Cheaters race” is always a winner on light days.  Setup a small race course- about 100 yards.  Ooching, pumping, skulling, etc., are all allowed.  Even swimming!

We invented more than fifty games and add more each year.  Most games are fun, competitive, but low pressure.

In addition, to having a good time all summer, some youngsters become local regatta champions.

So take heart, there are ways to get kids passionate about our sport.  And, ours is not the only approach.”

Videos of some games can be viewed at  And for written rules, visit  Thanks for this wonderful contribution from Jay Eveleth and Scuttlebutt USA. Add to Flipboard Magazine.