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Does college sailing need to change?
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The Publisher

Dec 16, 2012, 6:10 AM

Post #1 of 12 (28506 views)
Does college sailing need to change? Log-In to Post/Reply

By Gary Jobson, Sailing World
College sailors are incredibly deft in short-course racing, but they lack the skills for a wider range of disciplines available to them after college, which makes me wonder whether college sailing does enough to prepare them for a lifetime of sailing.

The Inter-Collegiate Sailing's Association's longtime president, and Old Dominion University coach, Mitch Brindley says college sailing fosters a passion for the sport. His peers also tout the benefits of the collegiate experience. Russ O'Reilly, the coach of New York Maritime, says that no other discipline exists outside of college sailing where sailors are provided with the amount of starts, races, and tactical decisions. The simplicity of the boats, he says, ensures that results are based on the sailor, not on the equipment. College of Charleston Sailing's Greg Fisher agrees that the sailors are highly technical and tactically sharp.

Georgetown's Mike Callahan notes, "It teaches the value of practice, fitness, and teamwork - that there are no shortcuts."

Within this narrow discipline of sailing, the collegiate system is clearly efficient, but it is deficient in several important areas. There is no real tuning knowledge developed during the collegiate life span, says O'Reilly, a sentiment shared by Callahan.

"College sailing doesn't prepare sailors for rig tuning and advanced sail trim, spinnakers, long-distance racing, or boat preparation," says Callahan.

These are fundamental areas for most sailors, and the sport as a whole, which is why college sailing must be a broader sailing experience. -- Read on:

The Publisher

Dec 16, 2012, 6:11 AM

Post #2 of 12 (28501 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Does college sailing need to change? [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

I am going to take a risk and disagree with Gary. Collegiate sailing is essentially the same as it was 30 years ago when I was in school - for the good reasons listed above. What has changed, however, is what occurs before college. The heightened structure of youth sailing, with the emphasis on simple institutional-type boats, has prepared young sailors for what to expect in college, but not what to expect after college. If we want to prepare sailors for a lifetime of sailing, my advice is to start before college.

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

The Publisher

Dec 16, 2012, 8:17 AM

Post #3 of 12 (28494 views)
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Gary Jobson's Sailing World article in Scuttlebutt 3739 - Weighty Issues of College Sailing - and comments that followed by Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck stirred the mailbox at Scuttlebutt World Headquarters. An email from Moose McClintock grabbed our attention. Who is Moose?

"Moose is without a doubt one of sailings greats," said Terry Hutchinson, 2008 U.S. Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. "From Laser frostbiting to winning J-24 Worlds, whatever he does it is always for the 'love of the game'. Having had the opportunity to race through the years with and against Moose, you won't find a better competitor on or off the water."

Here's what Moose had to say:
If the mission is to prepare and encourage young sailors for a lifetime sailing, I think the Scuttlebutt editor is right about what sailors do before college reflects on what they become after college. When I was younger, I didn’t take sailing lessons or have a boat to sail, though I loved sailing and hung around my yacht club begging for rides. I was pretty big so I ended up crewing on a lot of boats, mostly keelboats, with really good sailors who taught me the basics of a broad spectrum of sailing.

When I graduated from high school, my dad got the brand new class of boat - a Laser. That was my introduction to planing boats (other than a little crewing on International 420’s, for which I was too big). I have sailed the Laser non-stop until last year when I hurt my back, and it kept me sailing in competitive fleets that rewarded fitness and tactical sailing.

At college, I was too big to be a skipper at the major regattas but I sailed every minor event I could, and sailed in every practice. I developed the tactical acumen (not great but good enough) to be sought after as a crew, and with my big boat background, I sailed in all the prominent college keelboat regattas. At the same time, besides the Laser I also sailed 505s in the summers and midwinters with some very good sailors who taught me a lot about tuning and speed.

After college, I couldn’t find a job so I worked in a sail loft where I learned more about sail shape and construction, and its values to boat speed. As crew, I did an Olympic campaign that fit my weight (Soling) with college acquaintances, which I think is the biggest value of college sailing, the opportunity to sail with a wide variety of backgrounds in the sport. This then led to more contacts, I was soon sailing bigger and bigger boats, getting involved on the world match racing scene, and eventually the America’s Cup.

In this instance, my size was a benefit to the sailing I chose to do; maybe was forced me to do. I used college sailing to become a better sailor, knowing that I wouldn’t be a “starter”, but developing the tactical and boat handling skills I would need to keep sailing in the future. My experience might be a bit different from most but it was incredibly varied, and my current sailing is a derivative of what these experiences.

I sail all over the place and see juniors sailing all the time. I watch them in Newport (RI) in the middle of the winter doing 6-7 hour clinics in 35 degree weather, and in Ft Lauderdale (FL) in the sun and warmth, and they all have a bit of a glazed look on their faces from the repetition of it all. I know that if I had to do that, I wouldn’t have continued sailing as I did.

Kids are force-fed the same experience, over and over; it’s no wonder so many drop out. They’re not invested in the sport; they’re just doing it. How many go out and just sail around for fun? None that I see. It’s just practice, then race. Repeat. That is what I used college for, and I feel like I got further down the road because of it.

My advice? If we really want to get kids to keep sailing, I suggest getting them into other boats. Teach them how to crew. Yacht clubs have slews of boats that don’t sail; they should promote regattas with half the crew being juniors. They have the sailing knowledge but not the developed skills. This promotes regatta growth with no investment; everything is already in place. Does this hurt the kid's advancement in Opti’s wordwide? Maybe, but they still have college, for the most part, to refine the skills they developed when they were younger. If they’re too big to start in majors in college dinghies, there’s always the minors, just like baseball. It’s the experience in a wider variety of boats, which are available in every club in the country, that will keep them coming back, not the disappointment of not being able to be the best on the college race course.

This got a little off topic but it’s tied together. If college sailing is going to exclude certain people due to their size, other avenues to continue in the sport will make them better all-around sailors in a wide variety of boats. The more variety, the more knowledgeable they become, the better the sailor, the higher the passion. This variety has to start young, before the burnout that depletes our available sailors. Let the refinements in tactics and boat handling come through the great experience of college sailing, be it majors or minors. Embrace the amassed knowledge to continue sailing into the future.

The Publisher

Dec 16, 2012, 4:02 PM

Post #4 of 12 (28485 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Does college sailing need to change? [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Peter Rugg:
I appreciate your comment on Gary Jobson's Sailing World Article about the inability of mainstream college sailing to properly foster a lifetime addiction to sailing. However, I think you and Gary are both well aware that the Storm Trysail Foundation's Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta, the largest intercollegiate regatta on the planet, is sailed in big boats.

This is central to the foundation's purpose to teach young sailors to safely command big boats and to develop the skills to be lifelong blue water sailors. Let us not condemn without reference to the solution.

From Gerard Wolf:
I’m afraid I have to side with both you and Gary, but mostly Gary. I agree with Gary in that (and this is only from infrequent observations and chats with the competitors) the short term tactics are what is important. Races are short and the results only take 10-15 minutes to emerge. Near term tactics are all important in this venue and choosing the right side of the course paramount.

While these are highly important skills, they are not comprehensive when it comes to sailing a bigger boat. Over the years I have welcomed collegiate sailors onto my boats and while they proved to be skilled at many things, understanding the “big” picture of a big boat windward / leeward course, let alone a distance race was certainly not their forte.

I think that, with an exceptional few, most collegiate sailors are very good at recognizing the situational “here and now” , but very short on recognizing and analyzing anything that may be important beyond a ¼ mile distance.

While I think this a shortcoming, I also understand that (having been a collegiate racer), this is their world. I believe Gary is correct in his analysis, but aren’t the other skills supposed to be learned as one grows older and can understand “bigger” picture?

The Publisher

Dec 16, 2012, 4:09 PM

Post #5 of 12 (28484 views)
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From Herb Motley, Past President, IOD Class:
As a nearly 70 year old sailor, I am in awe of the skill set developed by today’s collegiate sailors. Never a lightweight, I remember crewing for Mike Horn in what was clearly the fourth boat on a Harvard team sailing at the Coast Guard Academy in their International 12 dinghies, where we were at a significant disadvantage. But I also had the honor of being the skipper for a series of races over the years sailed there in their fleet of Ravens which carried a crew of four where weight was far less sensitive. Even won a couple!

From my perspective today as a designated “O.F.” in the International One Design Class (IOD) of 33 foot, 7100 lb sloops, I also reflect on the wonderful virtues of sailing as what we used to call a “Carry over” sport, which people can enjoy later in life. We’ve just had the retirement of a skipper who is 87! Racing in a Metre boat (based on a Six Metre design) is at its best with courses long enough to develop boat speed and this requires delicate tuning of a fractional rig, including adjustable jumper stays on the front of the mast. This is a Stradivarius with a sail purchase plan limited to one new sail per year, so the competition is based on sailor skill not deep pockets.

How do we welcome the collegiate sailor into a fleet such as ours? It requires a change of culture where the rules are not tactical weapons, but guidelines to keep boats apart. No bumper cars in 33 feet of varnished mahogany! We have witnessed the growth and demise of several active fleets in Marblehead (Etchells, Sonars) where harassment by sea lawyers has taken the fun out of the sport. Perhaps we have to accept that there are actually two different sports here.

Team racing and match racing are different sports, and the rules makers shouldn’t try to force them under the same set of rules as fleet racing. The demise of one-design racing up and down the coast is certainly caused to some extent by increasingly complicated rules (which turn on and off at times) discouraging people from coming into the sport, and by an attitude taught at the collegiate level to use these rules as offensive weapons.

Fifty years after my collegiate sailing career, I’m still addicted to the sport. How do we teach and create an environment where ages 22 to whenever are the goal of enjoying the sport into our golden years?

Fred Roswold

Dec 17, 2012, 5:47 AM

Post #6 of 12 (28118 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Does college sailing need to change? [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

"which makes me wonder whether college sailing does enough to prepare them for a lifetime of sailing."

To enjoy a lifetime of sailing you don’t need preparation, you just need a passion for it, and, as in Moose’s case, that comes before college.

The points Gary and the others make are about a person’s preparation for a future of intense, short course, sailing competition, not a “lifetime of sailing”.

College sailing as well as the summers of Opti coaching and practice that some kids get pushed into might be great preparation for that racing career, but otherwise, we need to let people develop a passion for sailing, not give them a preparation for it.

And what gives a new sailor, a kid or an adult, the passion? For most people it isn’t going to be pushy parents, structured training programs, and endless practice sessions with the coach telling you what you did wrong all day. Pressure and expectation is a big turn off. The kids run from it, the adults just don’t come back. And it isn’t going to be a college sailing program that gets people hooked, for most folks they have to already have that passion before they get into that college program.

It’s going to be the discovery of the fun of messing around in boats, of all kinds, with supportive parents who will let you off the leash a little bit, with willing skippers who ask you along even if they aren’t sure how they will use you on the boat, with yacht clubs that have fun programs, not too much structure, and where the kids can run about with their friends and explore being on the water on their own terms.
If you have a lot of people who get hooked on sailing that way, some of them will plough into the college sailing and turn into the intense competitors who can go all the way. The rest of us have a chance to become sailors for the rest of our lives, enjoying it and doing it our own way. That’s what we need more of.

Bruce Thompson

Dec 17, 2012, 9:38 AM

Post #7 of 12 (27934 views)
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Can I assume that this Peter Rugg is the same one who sailed for Navy? Back in the days where John Dane sailed for Tulane and Tim Hogan for USC? And there were a couple of Doyles in NEISA? Back when Graham Hall was the coach at SUNY (Maritime) and he had two All-American skippers, plus a hot shot rookie on the bench named Gay Jobson?

That Peter Rugg?

I'd bet the best racing you ever saw was in regattas on LIS, such as Larchmont and Manhasset Bay Race Weeks, where kids sailed Blue Jays and Lightnings.

Been there, done that. That is why I favor using a Lightning with the classic, flatter sailplan, as designed by Olin Stephens, rather than the more powerful modern sailplan. There is a huge gap between what kids sail nowadays (e.g. 420s) and the standard rig Lightning. So follow the example of the Lasers and create a "Lighting Radial" using sails without the decksweeper jib and fuller mains. Use only luff and foot curve for draft, rather than broadseaming the panels.

Hundreds of kids sailing Lightings on Long Island Sound couldn't have been all wrong!

Use Title IX money to buy some Lightning Radials to set up a Women's Match Racing circuit and watch the excitement build.

Did someone say "Girls are the future of sailing"???

The Publisher

Dec 17, 2012, 4:11 PM

Post #8 of 12 (27819 views)
Re: [Bruce Thompson] Does college sailing need to change? [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

By Ken Read, president-in-waiting, North Sails
After seeing my friend (and 5-time J/24 World Champion) Moose McClintock lead off Scuttlebutt 3740 with his commentary, I had to jump in and make sure he wasn't walking the plank alone. Because when it comes to college sailing, I can honestly say that my career would never have taken off if it weren’t for the organization, support, teamwork, and sailing prowess all learned during my four years at Boston University.

Simply put, college sailing is the best part of sailing. You learn the fine tuning of boat speed in identical boats along with tactics in every type of condition possible. And to follow up Moose’s thoughts...big, small, boy, girl, newcomer or old hand...there is college sailing for everyone and it is the best!

Additionally, I couldn’t agree with Moose more about the boats that kids are in prior to college is what needs to change. When we were kids we got out of training boats like Sunfish as quick as possible and begged, borrowed, bought or stole every type of boat imaginable just to get on the water and race. Before college, my generation was doing everything from the bow on big boats to sailing in planing high performance dinghies.

I hate to say this but getting kids out of the structure of Opti’s earlier could be a key, as well as getting away from Collegiate 420s as the next boat for the kids to get into after Opti’s. There is little creativity in the C420, they aren’t high performance enough, and it’s time for youth sailing to move on from the same boat that I sailed as a teenager nearly 40 years ago!

Actually the boats that we sailed as kids were International 420s, which are higher performance than the Collegiate 420s in many different ways. It is pretty sad when you think that youth sailing may have gone backwards in the past 40 years when it comes to youth training. That to me is where we have to improve, and not by messing with college sailing which has a major part in nearly every great American sailor's career.

The Publisher

Dec 19, 2012, 8:20 AM

Post #9 of 12 (27484 views)
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From Cade Thomson:
The first two stories in Scuttlebutt 3741 were quite revealing. The first story demonstrates how our sport can thrive when pro sailors aren't involved, despite what the people who want pro sailors say. The second story demonstrates how our sport can suffer when it is taken too seriously. In other words, these two stories are saying the same thing.

As the Scuttlebutt editor remarked in his comments, our sport is often led by the vocal minority which are motivated by self-interest rather than looking out for the broader health of sailing. Kind of like the parent that offers to coach youth sports to insure their child has an advantage.

Maybe next year we will see what we have done to our sport.

From Hugo Schmidt:
A number of recent postings have felt strongly, as I do, about leaving college sailing alone while looking at youth sailing as a way to better prepare and encourage young sailors for a lifetime of sailing.

There are youth sailors today learning rig tuning, advanced sail trim, asymmetric spinnakers... and they are doing it on a 29er skiff. These sailors go to college and excel in that forma also. It may be probable that a youth sailing a skiff today would move to a Moth, kiteboard, windsurfer, multihull, 49er/49erFX skiff, etc.

The Publisher

Dec 19, 2012, 10:21 AM

Post #10 of 12 (27478 views)
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Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2012 16:57:46 -0500
Subject: Interested in contributing a story
From: Sail Sail

Thoughts from a college sailor's point of view...

Recently many have written regarding college sailing as a path to olympic careers. I'd like to express the point of view of a college sailor with no olympic ambitions, who simply wants to have fun sailing while in college.

Of the many arguments against the current college sailing set up, one of the biggest argument is the lack of boat tuning that we learn sailing boats such as FJs and C420s. In my opinion, the fact that these boats do not need to be tuned every time one goes sailing, allows us to rig our boats in 5 minutes. I don't know of many boats that allow you to be on the water 20 minutes tops after you get to your sailing venue. A quickly rigged and deriged boat is important when practice time is limited. 3 hour sessions are short, so not wasting time rigging and deriging is important. As for the tuning, while we may no learn to use a loose gage, we still adjust, jib T, trim, outhaul, downhaul and vang, while also learning other important aspects of sailing. Which brings me to the short races.

20 minutes, between 3 and 5 legs. That's the standard length of a college race. Two races and we rotate. This set up allows us to talk to coaches frequently, rotate crews/skippers if necessary, and keeps the races interesting for those watching. It also allows for easier race management as the course rarely needs to be adjusted during a race. A typical regatta has between 12 and 18 races a division, so sailors get to rotate through many boats and are not penalized when different boat are in different shape.

Now back to the boats, and the want for more performant boats in college sailing. If more performant boats were used in college sailing, it would be harder to start new programs. Buying and maintaining an FJ or C420 is relatively cheaper than buying and maintaining a more performant boat. A lot of the small club teams would suffer. More performant boats would also make it harder to take walk-ons to the team, and would mean that college team would be composed entirely of people with prior sailing experience. While that may be a possible recruiting teams, for many teams that would not be feasible. The easy access of FJs and C420s, allows for large team and regular 18+ boat regattas. Furthermore, having walk ons is nice as it brings fresh air to a team that would otherwise be composed entirely of sailing fanatics. Which brings me to my last point the COLLEGE sailing experience.

As a current sophomore I am not going to talk about how my college sailing experience will affect me after I graduate because I do not know, but I will say that being on a team with people who grew up sailing and started at different points in their life is a great experience; it brings a diversity of interests to the team, that prevents all conversation topics from being sailing related. Some of our team mates have experience being athletes in other sports and we can learn a philosophy towards off the water training, that let's face it most sailors don't have.

The off the water college experience is arguably just as important as the on the water experience. A team is essentially a group of friends that can support you and help you through academics struggle, be there to have amazing amounts of fun with you, and also take care of you when you've had to much fun.

So yeah, college sailing is not the best olympic preparatory program out there, but most of us are just college students who want to sail while in college; we know to take advantage of the opportunity the current set-up gives us, because most of us know that in 1-4 year we'll be sitting in a cubicle trying to make friends with big boat owners so we can sail on the weekend.

The Publisher

Jan 2, 2013, 7:58 AM

Post #11 of 12 (26990 views)
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From Steve Lopez:
As a long time competitor and friend of Moose McClintock, I read with interest his article about professionalism in youth sailing.

I am at least partially responsible for this. My son came through the Opti class when these "now standard training techniques" were developing. At that time training was only provided to those who made the National Team. It was obvious to anyone paying attention that it worked well. The best got better and the rest wanted the same.

This growth in training devolved into what we have today: huge sums of money on coaching, travel and equipment. Phony antisocial elitist "Teams" that do nothing to actually encourage "team playing". It has done the opposite. When the kids are part of the "team" they are encouraged to stay with the team, eat with the team, sail with the team, etc. They hardly socialize with the other sailors.

The thing is, this is going on everywhere, not just sailing. I see hundreds of 8-10 year old kids in the neighborhood playing lacrosse. By the time they're 12, there is travel teams and the number is reduced to 40 or so. By the time they get to high school, maybe 10 can make the team. At college level you're lucky if two are still playing.

A kid these days has every waking second scheduled with adult supervised activities. It's simply a different world now. The times of simply messing around with boats down by the river are over forever. Those born in the 50s lived the last golden era to grow up in this country.....and it was great.

The Publisher

Jan 2, 2013, 7:59 AM

Post #12 of 12 (26989 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Does college sailing need to change? [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

The "soccerization" of sailing may have helped to grow youth sailing, but I'm not so sure it's been good for growing long term sailing. I was born in 1962, and my last U.S. Youth Champs was in the newly released Laser 2. Was this the point in time when 'youth sailing' was splintered off from 'open sailing'?

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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