May 25, 2011, 6:30 AM
Post #8 of 12
At the age of 20, Allison Jolly became the youngest woman ever to win the U.S. Yachtswoman of the Year Award in 1976. And when the Olympics added the Women’s Doublehanded event in 1988, Allison with teammate Lynne Jewell dominated the heavy air event in Pusan, South Korea to earn gold.
Re: [The Publisher] YOUTH SAILING IN THE U.S.
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When Allison began sailing at 10 years, youth sailing programs were much different. Now as the sailing coach for the University of South Florida Women's Varsity Team, she shares her observations on the changes:
As junior sailors 30 to 40 years ago, we were introduced to simple concepts about mast bend even in the prams we sailed. Our masts were laminated wood, and the selection of which timber(s) to use was based on your weight, the wind conditions you sailed in, and what mast bend characteristics you wanted. We were all expected to understand these concepts. Additionally, the easily adjusted vang and sprit control lines were led to the daggerboard trunk, so effecting sail shape was almost effortless.
After leaving prams, I was exposed to many wonderful classes which promoted an even greater understanding of the diverse combination of sails, rigs, foils, hulls, and the physics of sailing. These included Snipes, Windmills, Lightnings, Thistles, Fireballs, I-420's (no Club 420's in those days), FD's, 5-O-5's, and yes, 470's.
I competed in the inaugural US Youth Championships in 1973 in Wilmette, IL. Competition in the double-handed event was held in 470's, and I fell in love with the boat before I could even (legally) drive a car. Just imagine the top 20 youth double-handed sailors in the US competing in 470's today!
Having lamented the "dumbing-down" of youth sailing, however, I acknowledge there is at least one significant positive result. Transferring the responsibility of boat ownership to clubs and other organizations has allowed for greater access and increased the opportunity for more widespread community involvement in youth sailing.
The question is what happens to this influx of new competitive junior sailors once they attain a certain level. The sport of competitive sailing is generally associated with an elitist image, and unfortunately with fairly good reason. The inevitable costs associated with higher levels of competition make the sport prohibitively expensive for many of these sailors. But is the solution to continue "watering down" the sport for all juniors, putting U.S. sailors at a disadvantage on the international level?
I don't think so, but I don't have the solution.