Jun 21, 2011, 12:54 PM
Post #3 of 13
Mr. Caswell hit the nail on the head. This approach to junior sailing racing is killing the sport I love. We see it in the lack of participation of young adults at all levels of casual sailing and weekend club racing. At 53 years old, I am one of the youngest members of a 200 member yacht club. Grey hair dominates the sailing landscape. Here's what I believe is wrong:
Re: [ms] The Mommy Boat Syndrome
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* The Optimist is a singlehander. 8 year olds sailing alone is scary and intimidating for most kids. Our society's institution of "macho creed" (girls and boys) suppress kids' willingness to admit they're scared to their peers, instructors and parents. My 8 year old only admitted it 18 months after he started in Optis. And I had to ask first.
* Singlehanding is anti-social. I started sailing in Turnabouts with 2 other kids. We had a blast and made fast friends. If we were scared, we at least had each other.
* Singlehanding can't train you to be a good crew. Many Opti grads move on to Lasers, not 420s. Who's going to "lower themselves" to crew position when everyone's trained to be a skipper?
* Teaching good seamanship? Can these kids tie knots, tune a mast, trim a jib, anchor, navigate (without GPS)?
* Winning is everything.
* Coaching at $25,000/year, $5,000 Optimists (which were created to be built out of plywood at home), $250 sunglasses, specialized clothing, overbearing parents having to be banned from on the water spectating, etc. etc.
* Fun. As junior instructors, we started water fights, played on the water capture the flag and horsed around at least 50% of the time on the water. Now? The club I worked for would probably be sued for child endangerment. All of this contributes to junior sailing burnout. I have some thoughts about improving the situation. It will involve a zero-based rethink of what we are doing now and a recognition of what our ultimate goals needs to be- preparing our children to enjoy a life-long sport that is a BALANCE between competition and fun.
* Start all beginners in 2-3 man boats and give them an alternative path to singlehanding for the rest of their junior sailing experience. No exceptions for at least the first full season.
* Set the max age for Opti participation at 12.
* Teach that crewing vs. skippering is noble and fun.
* Prohibit personal coaching. This is not a professional sport.
* Give PHRF boats a handicap advantage for each crewmember under 25 (maybe 1 second/mile/young person).
* Encourage yacht clubs to run teenage and young adult-level big boat sailing classes.
* Promote sailboat racing as more than winning: it's all natural, it is a test of seamanship not just speed, it's athletic and strategic and it is life-long.
* Punish unsportsmanlike behavior of parents and instructors.
* Reward seamanship and boat handling equally to winning.
I realize that the above recommendations involve a radical departure from the status quo. I happen to believe our sport has reached a point where radical measures are needed.
-- Geoffrey Emmanuel, Southlake, TX