Dec 16, 2012, 8:17 AM
Post #3 of 12
GETTING YOUNG PEOPLE INVESTED IN THE SPORT
Re: [The Publisher] Does college sailing need to change?
[In reply to]
Log-In to Post/Reply
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.