Editor’s note: Whitney Connor Peterson’s excellent article in our January/February issue (“Offering Options: There’s More to Junior Sailing than Optis and a Race to the Top”) continues to generate replies from around the sailing world. The letters below were posted to “Feedback” at windcheckmagazine.com.
This is the norm that hurts the sport. I am a hardcore pre-1989 racer, and starting with racing hurts. I have run multiple programs, and focus on Fun second, only limited by Safety. Junior sailing is all games and learning by osmosis.
A big treat after completing drill for the day is a “road trip” where the kids just sail into the tide until it’s time to turn around. We put the newbies into Flying Scots (we have a lot of current so the 19-footers have the waterline to beat it). All kinds of great games and a staff member is normally on board. Boat assignments are made for social, then skills. They graduate to 420s and some can try Optis on days when Optis will sail at our location when the tide is in opposition to the breeze.
We end each day with the “Circle of Knowledge” and freezepops, and the final questions are: What did you do today? Answer: I had FUN! What’s our Goal? They put up their hands in the goal signal and shout, “JOY OF SAILING!”
OMG, is this what being a sailing parent in America entails? It looks like hell. Why don’t you buy a cruiser and take your kids sailing on it? Or why not moor it at the club and put the kids ashore in tents with their friends? My kids were taken cruising in the north of rainy Scotland in a 21-foot cruiser for four or five summers. They never took up dinghy racing, but they now all do kitesurfing and whitewater kayaking. None of them are interested in racing anything except snowboards.
Cadets (as they are called in UK yacht clubs) do a bit of very informal racing but mainly it is mucking about in Wayfarers, sandcastle building, walks in the woods, erecting things out of wooden poles, and beach barbecues. Do any of them take up sail racing after university? No, but they haven’t developed a lifelong hatred of boating either. We have had one family with kids with serious international sailing potential in our club in the last ten years. They are currently burning up thousands of pounds and valuable years of their lives in pursuit of an Olympic medal. They are currently about 71st in their class on Europe, but the dream goes on. The dirty little secret in sport is that there is one winner, perhaps three on the podium, the top ten perhaps, and the rest are losers, failures.
Meanwhile, there are those who love sailing and only have enough time and money to do it properly once they are retired. I sympathized with the eight-year -old who was made to go Opti racing in a large fleet in a gale and came home in tears. I have that feeling most of the time after a race, and I am 76. But I will go for a fun sail tomorrow, possibly taking several generations of my family sailing in the same 21-foot cruiser that they were brought up in!
7th (out of 12) Spring Points