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The Future of Sailing Lies with the Girls!!
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Bruce Thompson
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Nov 30, 2012, 7:54 AM

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The Future of Sailing Lies with the Girls!!

With all the talk about the future of sailing, I have been doing some listening to young sailors, particularly young women. A big part of the issue is what types of boats will work out best. Currently, the most common boat for young sailors is the C420. I think the problem can be summed up in this quotation from a young woman, Heidi, crewing in a Vanguard 15.

“The 420 is a kid’s boat.”

Heidi is definitely not a kid, she is a young woman. So persisting in trying to get young women into sailing via the 420 is not a real solution. As kids they may persist in sailing in 420s up through graduation from college, because much college sailing is done in either C420s or CFJs. But their sailing life after college is very poorly defined. One answer is to promote these young women in V-15s, which is where my club, the Chicago Corinthian YC, stands right now. We have young women who want to sail at a higher level racing in V-15s. And an interesting part of that class’s activities is team racing. But to be complete, we need to make further progress. Where might she go after her post-graduate V-15 racer phase?

My idea is to create a notional “career path” for women starting when they are little girls first starting to sail, up through junior sailing, college, post-grad, the Mommy track etc. Based on the one-design fleets available here in Chicago, this is my suggestion. First, this is what we currently have on offer.

1) We start the kids out in prams. We typically use Vanguard prams as they more easily accommodate two kids per boat than the Opti and kids like to sail with their BFFs.
2) If the kid is interested and feels “the need for speed”, we offer the Opti next.
3) We promote the kids into C420s. This happens about middle school age.
4) We promote the kids into C420 racing. (We are looking at starting a high school team at Lane Tech).
5) We let the kids start to sail with adults crewing in Rhodes-19s. This will be their first taste of women’s keelboat events for the girls.
6) We start them skippering the Rhodes-19s.
7) We encourage them to crew in Vanguard-15s.
8) They can also sail on offshore boats on weekends and/ or Wednesday nights.

This is a reasonably broad spectrum of choices, but I think we can do more. So to supplement these options I would look at two more options. One is to create a Laser Radial fleet as a sister to our existing Laser full rig fleet. Our Laser fleet has several grizzled old veterans who were there when the Laser class was first built in the 1970s. Some of us even remember Susie Pegel as a beginner! So the thought would be to do two things, just get girls sailing Laser Radials (old or new) to widen the talent pool. This group would have a large social aspect to their activities (Think of it as a Girls’ Day Off with Sailing). Then after we have a critical mass, we could assign any girl with higher aspirations a Laser Grand Master Mentor to help her develop better racing skills to develop a deeper talent pool. We want both breadth and depth in the fleet.

This still leaves figuring out how to address the mommy track. Many women could simply become Junior Fleet Moms. That has proven to be very popular with mothers, as sailing is a positive outlet for their children, and they can socialize with the other moms, maybe even have a glass of wine while watching the kids sail. But what do we do for the racers amongst them? For them we offer the Lightning! It is a very seasoned and popular class for some of the most talented women to ever sail in the United States. It is a great boat to sail with your husband and young kids. Two of the top five finishers at the Red Flannels Regatta had a Mother/Father/Son team.

Who says girls can’t do top quality racing with spinnakers, kids and husbands? Not us! We think girls are the future!


[EDIT[ Here is a question I'd ask our 2012 Olympic women sailors,

In 20 years would you rather be a female version of Torben Grael, most famous for being a past Olympic Champion and America's Cup sailor or a new Debbie Probst, Secretary of the Lightning Class, leader of the Lightning Boat Grant Program, recent Adams Cup winner, Mother etc. with a family life of your own?





JScott
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Dec 4, 2012, 7:30 PM

Post #2 of 8 (19215 views)
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I am previous Rhodes 19 NorthAmerican champion and have had many fine times racing R19s at Chicago Corinthian.
But in all honesty if the 420 is a "kids boat", the Rhodes 19 is "grandpa's boat"

If we want the future of sailing to lie with Girls under the age of 60,.... then at step 5 go from the C420 to something exciting.

For someone who has sailed in a 420, the V15 is an easy step. And yes.....get those Laser Radials or Bics.


I was on a visit to the UK a few years back and went racing with friends on Chichester Harbor. I was struck by how the adults were sailing much more exciting boats than the adult sailing boats in the US. I was struck by how many kids wre crewing with their parents. I was struck by how many twenty somethings were crewing and skippering with fifty somethings. I was struck by how many young people owned their own boats. The common theme is that they were fun fast exciting and relatively inexpensive boats.
I still own the Rhodes. I still have a few grizzled old veterans who will sail it with me. Now, I also own a Viper and there are dozens of teenagers and twenty somethings lining up to crew. Hopefully instead of dropping out of the sport after college they will stay in this exciting sport and start saving for a boat of their own.


Bruce Thompson
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Dec 5, 2012, 5:43 AM

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In Rhodes-19 Fleet 12, we are allowing the grandpas to watch as the girls take over!

Peter Pan #1043 is frequently sailed by Rebecca 16, Sabine 14 & Dominique 14 for a total crew age of only 44 years!

The Rhodes-19 is NOT your Grandpa's boat anymore, it is a girl's keelboat racer!


[EDIT] Given that almost all of Fleet 12's boats were built by O'Day in the 1960's, the boat is older than the total age of its crew!





JScott
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Dec 5, 2012, 6:41 AM

Post #4 of 8 (19137 views)
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Dont get me wrong. I love my Rhodes 19. I also think its great what you are doing at Chicago with the girls.

I just observe in general that in the UK, Rebecca, Sabine and Dominique stay in the sport after they leave college and buy their own boats. I also observe that they join fleets sailed by adults and these fleets are generally faster, more exciting and less expensive than we sail here.

By all means get them "hooked" with the Rhodes 19, but we have to ask ourselves. If the only classes available when they go from teens to young adults and look at getting their own boats were designed in the 1950s ....is this going to be a cool, exciting, affordable pastime for them to devote their leisure time to?

Cost is important and what I really like about the R19 is that it is affordable. Hey lots of families are still sailing because of the R19. But if the emerging youth (girls and boys) want something modern and the adults have elected to sail J70s. Then the entry fee for excitement is $50,000. Where is the equivalent of the thousands of RS boats that adults sail in the UK? An affordable, exciting boat that can be sailed by young and old alike.

Go Peter Pan......Im rooting for them in the Fleet 12 series and I hope they will make a showing at the 2013 NAs.


Bruce Thompson
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Dec 5, 2012, 6:58 AM

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While I have concentrated on girls and Rhodes-19s, we do have women too! Seven time National Champion Bob Jensen finally has turned over the tiller of Rhubarb #1216 to someone whose first name is Gretchen. The fleet captain is Jennifer, the race committee representative is Sally. There are other boats named Tinkerbelle, Captain Hook and Tiger Lily. We have boat owners with names like Stefania and Amy (people may in Chicago may recognize the name of her boat, Nitemare).

Fleet 12 ia alive and growing with both Grandpas and girls/women.


The Publisher
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Dec 6, 2012, 2:35 PM

Post #6 of 8 (19006 views)
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From Lianne Dusek:
After reading the article "The Future of Sailing Lies With the Girls", I felt compelled to share my thoughts, being an experienced female sailor myself.

While the intentions of the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club are commendable, and the efforts put forth to include the women are a start, the program can be revised to reflect a more modern way of thinking. The idea that every women is destined to have a family, and be dependent on her husband, is an out-dated mentality which seems to be embraced by the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club's sailing program for women.

Frankly, as an experienced female sailor, I was offended to read that the "mommy track" was the only perceivable outcome of a woman's sailing career. May I point out, that there are many more opportunities for female racers outside of the keelboat classes. Women continue to excel in high performance classes, and will be crucial in the new mixed multihull class in the 2016 Olympics. Girls should be given the background necessary to pursue these ambitious goals from the very beginning of their sailing careers.

Women are just as capable of skippering boats in a vast number of dinghy and high performance classes, and should be encouraged to do so from a young age. I put forth the question, why can't women skipper in the V-15 class, and why are they only encouraged to crew? Since the V-15 is only sailed with a jib and main sail, the crew has limited opportunities in comparison to the skipper. Why would girls only be encouraged to crew, when they could gain so much more experience and knowledge from skippering the boat as well?

If the true aim of the program is to encourage women to continue sailing throughout their adult lives, they should be given every opportunity to improve as skippers and as crews. It is my firm belief that girls can excel to a level of sailing that does not necessarily have to include "spinnakers, kids, and husbands", but instead go above and beyond that, and they should be given every opportunity to pursue that higher level of competition.




Bruce Thompson
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Dec 6, 2012, 5:09 PM

Post #7 of 8 (18998 views)
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We do have women skippering V-15s. We have a female past commodore racing a J-105. Our new commodore is a woman who is married to a Rhodes-19 sailor. We have a married couple who switch roles on their 505. There are a myriad of possible tracks.

But without children, there eventually will be no future. So marriage seems to be a favored path for women who want it all, racing success and a family with children. Single moms have a hard enough time paying the bills, let alone funding an expensive sport.

One of those trophy winning Moms sailing in the Red Flannels is a wife, mother of two and pediatrician! Do you have a problem with that? I thought that was what women meant when they said they "could have it all".


Bruce Thompson
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Dec 8, 2012, 10:56 AM

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For those who may have an interest in Vanguard-15 sailing at CCYC, Fleet 67 will be holding its annual meeting January 25, 2013 from 6 to 9 PM.

RSVP newsletter@corinthian.org


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