Junior sailing programs overflow with kids, but after they graduate the sport loses many. I think the problem is that too many sailing programs only teach kids to race; which is just one way to enjoy our sport. In my opinion, kids should be exposed to all aspects of sailing and get a chance to learn to love sailing first before training to be hard core racers.
This letter ran in Scuttlebutt (#5288) on March 19, 2019.
ASK KIDS WHAT THEY WANT (#5287)
“Youth programs need a mission statement which I pray says something about instilling the love of sailing. From that simple premise it is easy to backward engineer the programming which would include less racing and more screwing around with a wide variety of boats. Unfortunately, sailing instructors all tend to be racers and thus seek to instill that lifestyle which attributes to so many kids dropping out.”
I agree with Debbie Myers. The non-racing elements of my junior sailing experience created the foundation for my current love of racing and cruising. I’m not sure where I’d be without those experiences.
I can remember learning a ton of different non-racing things in my junior sailing program on the Chesapeake Bay. We fine-tuned our boat handling and seamanship skills with rudderless races, figuring out how to sail backwards, knot tying and splicing races, and basics like practicing docking as well as how to use an anchor. I still remember our day-long cruise when we went gunk holing up the narrow creek near our yacht club. I can still hear the crickets chirping in the fields as we sailed silently on the calm creek to our picnic lunch served on a beach. Along with the lessons learned during junior sailing, my family let me mess around in our sailing dinghy. It wasn’t until much later, when I was older, that I got into serious racing, and that was well after drinking the sailing Kool Aid as a kid.
Even after I started traveling to regattas, I still would ride my bicycle out to the lake and take friends for a sail or go out by myself. Along with learning to love sailing, I became responsible, independent and a student of the game.
- Adam Loory, General Manager of UK Sailmakers International