I am continually amazed at the number of ‘We must grow the sport of sailing’ articles and letters out there. Yet, each and every month the pages of this magazine are filled with articles detailing that very thing. I suppose I would understand if the letters and articles read ‘Let’s continue growing the sport of sailing’ instead because collectively, I think we’re doing a spectacular job of increasing accessibility to the sport as well as decelerating the decline in participation in the ‘aged-out’ and ‘bored-out’ categories of junior sailors. Certainly there will always be attrition in the high school and college years, but with the multitude of truly exciting opportunities available to young sailors today, boredom can scarcely get a toehold.
Look at the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team from American Yacht Club. With success in several major races, these youngsters are filling their memory banks while advancing their knowledge and independence offshore. We recently published a story by a pair of high school sailors who were invited to race an M32 catamaran during the World Match Racing Tour and learn from some of the best sailors in the world, and the Red Bull Foiling Generation – sailed in hyperfast Flying Phantom hydrofoil cats – is coming to Newport next month. For those lucky teenage racers, that experience should be akin to passing the driving test and being handed the keys to a Porsche 918 Spyder.
Meanwhile, other young sailors (including three sisters in this issue) are venturing to far-off lands aboard the family boat. Sure, we had big boat sailing when I was a kid, but the fastest boats were big, heavy maxis with little room aboard for a skinny teen or two. And, of course there were families circling the globe, but most often in large, converted fishing schooners or the like and those occurrences were pretty rare. Nowadays, with lighter, faster, more comfortable and safer vessels, advances in navigation and communication, and technology that makes work a sat phone call or e-mail away, these opportunities abound for the adventurous and mobile family.
And kids aren’t the only ones getting into and sticking with the sport. The subject of month’s On Watch article, Don Dwyer, is a guy that set forth, as an adult, to get into sailing, and did it. I am particularly intrigued with Don’s story because of his interest in breaking new ground with family in mind, and they have been along for the adventure from the start. I feel like I’m always preaching the importance of – and my appreciation for – spending time with family and friends on the water, and Don embodies that spirit. I embrace and enjoy every moment thus spent, and revel in the joy that I feel when I’m sitting on the rail soaking it all in, just as Don recounted in a very enjoyable interview.
Also in this issue are two young sailors (and several more seasoned ones, as well) who are paying it forward by bringing members of our Armed Forces out sailing. We all know that the challenges and pleasures that are felt while sailing can takes one’s thoughts away from just about all else. Sailing helps to transport these veterans to a better state of mind while offering new and interesting tests and triumphs.
Elsewhere in our sport, new events, advances in accessibility and the efforts of legions of volunteers are enabling more and more people to enjoy the empowerment of being on the water…and I’m eager to see US Sailing Team Sperry’s Paralympic athletes in action in Rio and beyond.
I am proud of the positive trends in our sport. And with the fall boat shows coming up, I look forward to meeting many of you whose stories are like those we chronicle on the pages of WindCheck.
See you on the water…and at the shows.