Keeping kids in sailing

Sailing 'fun'damentals!

Yesterday I made a prediction that the next generation of sailors is already in the making through the effects of the new Disney classic Moana. I also made a plea not to turn kids off when they show up to sail training by forcing them into racing.

Today, I am going to continue to expand on my writings about the shortcomings of how sailing is taught for the most part in sailing clubs around the world. In 2015, I wrote a piece for Yachting World about how making sailing programmes fun can help keep more kids sailing. I'd written similar pieces for magazines on both sides of the Atlantic before that. It's sadly not a localised problem. Somehow, we've allowed racing to define sailing.

Last month, a series in Scuttlebutt tackled the issue of keeping kids in sailing and gave several great examples of how some clubs have managed to increase retention significantly through "Adventure Sailing" programmes. Can it be true? Is the concept catching on?

I'll start with my usual rant about the bodies that represent sailing on a global and regional level. No, US Sailing is not about sailing. It is about racing, the sport end of the pursuit. There is no body that I know of that represents sailing in all its forms. US Sailing does not represent cruising because cruising is not a sport - it's a pursuit. It's the same with World Sailing. They actually host a page about cruising on their website, but does it really do anything for cruising? Under events, they list all the global racing events, but do they even mention the World ARC? Of course not. Cruising is just not sexy enough or monetarily rewarding for them to mention.

Just think about the US National Sailing Hall of Fame. Do they honour cruisers? I rest my case. They don't even mention cruisers on their website.

Thanks to the Ocean Cruising Club, cruisers can get access to information and Port Officers that can help with sailing almost anywhere in the world. To become a full member, you must have sailed 1000 miles nonstop port to port in a small boat, but Associates can join if they aspire to qualify one day. There's a mentoring programme and a youth sponsorship programme that enable young people to pair up with experienced members for an offshore passage or to learn from those that have come before. Why can't we model youth Adventure Sailing programmes in the same way?

How did we ever let competitive racing take over sailing so fully?  I can only hope that the younger generations are going to sway the vote and go cruising in offshore canoes. And that messing about in boats will eventually win out.


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