Feb 21, 2012, 7:09 PM
Post #9 of 9
From Bruce Thompson:
Re: [The Publisher] Kids and sailing
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At the risk of boring some who have heard this before, there are a few things to keep in mind, particularly where girls are involved. First, you need to remember that girls are very social beings. Second, they tend to be smaller and lighter than boys on average. Third, one day they will control 60% of family disposable income, once they have embarked on a life journey that they want to have include husbands and, more critically, kids of their own.
So the long, long term goal is to promote mothers who race competitively. Among my friends in the Lightning Class here in the Midwest, we have a whole bunch of great sailors, who often can be found in wife/husband pairs. And those wives also tend to be mothers of the next generation of racing sailors.
Now parents have a vested interest in their children, so the kids tend to get a chance to play with Mom & Dad's Lightning! What we in Fleet 5 have discovered is that the teenage years are awkward for girls because they tend to be "smaller and lighter than boys". And as fate would have it, virtually every single one of the children of Fleet 5's skippers is a girl, so we have been trying to fill the gap.
The current leading edge of our girls are sailing with adults in either Rhodes-19s or on offshore boats (i.e. keel boats). The Lightnings will have to wait just a little bit longer! Yes, the Dad of two future Lightning sailors, Skip Dieball, and I have been discussing the best way to create the lightweight Lightning equivalent to the Laser Radial.
Nominally, we'd probably revert to the very flat sail plan of the original Olin Stephens design. If so, then your 50 year old woodie would be a competitive and competitively priced girls' racer! Take that Club 420 sailors! Three girls in one boat for less than half the cost of a new 420. Now such a hot racing boat is way too much to handle for novice sailors, someone who isn't blessed with a Lightning SuperMom will always be at a disadvantage to those who do. So she needs to start in something more appropriate to her age, weight and experience. She must crew first, and learn to "Follow directions first, ask questions second!" Then you can let her taste the future. Note that the same basic plan also works with Thistles, Rhodes 19s and of course the Laser Radial.
What one of my Junior Fleet girls said while we let her steer the J-105 on the way to the race course and she passed the Elliott 6Ms was priceless, "That's an Olympic boat? Looks kind of piggy to me!"
And she doesn't know the half of it, does she Mrs. Moriarty, Probst, Wake et al?
From Bill Burtis:
It is true that kids today have more access to learning to sail with formal programs in yacht clubs and high schools. What is missing is the adults racing in accessible venues on Saturdays and Sundays where the kids can crew on small One Designs that they could see themselves racing in a year or two.
When I was a teenager racing in Long Island Sound, I raced Blue Jays and then Lasers in our Junior Sailing Program during the week. On weekends, we had a 21 boat Star fleet, a 23 boat Ensign fleet, a 18 boat Snipe fleet, and a couple of E22ís and IODís that raced mid sound. For the kids that were interested in furthering their exposure in the adult sailing it was usually possible to get to crew on a Snipe or Ensign. To get a steady crewing job on a Star or E22 was super cool. We probably had only a dozen boats racing in the Cruising Division. On a typical Weekend our harbor racing could have 50 or more boats show up to start in 4 divisions.
The problem today is that it is rare to see that type of racing in Yacht Clubs. The Fleet aspect of One Designs has dwindled to only a handful of boats if any at all, and it has become more of a road warrior thing where you travel to regattas to get your sailing in. That is pretty much invisible and exclusionary to juniors unless they are lucky enough to be a crew. The number of people that learn to sail on cruising boats has created a large PHRF fleet that is much less attractive to kids because the boats are basically boring. A 14 year old kid could aspire to get his own Snipe and race it, but the idea of them aspiring to get their own soggy J30 and racing in the PHRF fleet holds no attraction.
I think the adults that have been the hardcore small one design sailors that have managed to keep active fleets racing on the weekends are the sports unsung hero's. They are to ones that still provide the conduit for juniors to crew on more interesting boats in an adult venue that they can aspire to one day do themselves. It seems that the Yacht Clubs that have not tried to start up a new fleet of flavor of the month fleets, and have stuck with Stars, Lightnings, Thistles, Flying Scots and Snipes are the ones that continue to thrive and get Junior participation. Getting adults back in one designs will get the kids back in too.