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With both the football Orange Bowl and the real Orange Bowl going on, I got to thinking about Junior Sailing and how classes and programs have evolved since I went through more than a decade ago. Is it headed in the right direction? Are we using the right boats? Are we setting kids up for success whose names are not Melges or Cayard? 

In the U.S., kids usually start out in Optis at six or seven, and either outgrow the boat around 100lbs or age out at fifteen.

High School sailing is almost exclusively done in Club 420's, and high school freshmen are 13-15, while seniors are 17-19. When I coached I tried to put together 250lb combined crews, and it seems like few 420 crews weigh more than 300lbs or less than about 230.

College Sailing, with a few exceptions, is done in Club FJ's, Club 420's, and Lasers/Radials. CFJ's have a lower competitive crew weight than 420's, and the high end for Laser sailors in the U.S. seems to be about 185lbs unless you live in the Gorge. 

A slew of classes exist as the "trainers" or "junior equivalent" of Olympic and ISAF classes:

e.g. the i420 is supposed to be the feeder for 470's,

the 29er/29erXX is supposed to be the pipeline to 49er/49er FX,

the Nacra 15 is supposed to be the trainer for the Nacra 17,

etc.

What is the entry point for a 12-year old Opti kid to go down the 29er track, or the i420 track? I remember outgrowing the Opti pretty quick and spent a couple summers in FJ's before I got my first Laser a few months before my 13th birthday, but I'm also bigger than the average bear. Laser 4.7's don't really exist in Detroit at least, so what should former Opti kids sail before they're at the 110-140lbs for the Radial? Should they sail 420's first? At what point do you pull them out of the 420 and into the Radial, or do you let them keep going down that path?

How do you prevent kids from becoming "skipper-only" or "crew-only" dinghy sailors? In MISSA, there are half a dozen kids on the big teams who do great roll tacks and call wind shifts and are extremely helpful to their skippers, but for whatever reason won't touch the tiller unless they have to. I've seen this continue into college as well, how good a sailor is someone who started crewing on 420's in high school, and now is a college graduate with eight years of 420 crewing experience?

With foiling and multihulls, what's the entry point into that pipeline? Seems like the UFO and the Waszp are targeted as entry-level/club-level foilers to get you into the game cheaper than a used Moth, but plenty of Mothies have never touched a Waszp. I'd think that a kid who knows how to trap and fly a kite would be able to adapt to the Nacra 15, so do you end up scalping kids from the 29er->49er pipeine to do that?

Seems like there are lots of great boats coming along that kids could enjoy and which will endure as OD classes, like the RS Aero. Should clubs start buying Aeros and 5/7/9 rigs so both the newly liberated Opti kids can play with the post-Laser/pre-Finn size boys? What about asymmetric hiking dinghies like the RS Feva or the Topaz Vibe? The Bic O'pen was supposed to be a nice transition out of the Opti, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

What are kids sailing out of college? The Zim 15 was supposed to be the ticket for that, but besides for a promotional video and one race I haven't seen anything happen. How do you expose high school and college aged kids to the "real" classes that we sail, and keep them in the sport? When was the last time you saw anyone older than 22 in a 420?

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This subject has been touched on before, might be worth checking previous threads. 

The Feva is a good stepping stone from the Oppy. Kids can get used to teamwork and using a kite. The boat is pretty stable and forgiving in light winds while being a blast in a blow. 

They are also pretty tough, so can survive in a club or school/centre environment.

Any club boat is going to get a hammering, so if they are not tough and simple will need a steady input of time and money to maintain. This limits the options significantly.

Most of the questions you are asking are about the sailing environment, not the boats... I don't know what the "real" classes you refer to are but people sail with other people better than they sail with other boats... that's where to focus. 

Cheers,

               W.

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4 hours ago, WGWarburton said:

This subject has been touched on before, might be worth checking previous threads. 

The Feva is a good stepping stone from the Oppy. Kids can get used to teamwork and using a kite. The boat is pretty stable and forgiving in light winds while being a blast in a blow. 

They are also pretty tough, so can survive in a club or school/centre environment.

Any club boat is going to get a hammering, so if they are not tough and simple will need a steady input of time and money to maintain. This limits the options significantly.

Most of the questions you are asking are about the sailing environment, not the boats... I don't know what the "real" classes you refer to are but people sail with other people better than they sail with other boats... that's where to focus. 

Cheers,

               W.

 

The Optimist class is a big profit maker. It's increasingly the -only- profitable part of the sailing business here in the US. Who wouldn't want to duplicate that and extend the gravy train?

What I saw in my involvement with youth sailing is that most kids don't care much about racing. Most kids -do- want to sail with a friend. Almost any small sloop that an Opti-size kid can handle.... and right from capsize..... would be a good fit for Opti kids to move into. As you observe, program boats need to be simple and rugged. At one point, I was using an AMF Puffer and our program was considering acquiring more of these, but we decided not to. They are available cheap but they're all old and beat, and poorly rigged, so they would suck up a lot of volunteer hours rigging and maintaining them. We got brand new Topper Topaz Unos instead, and they work marvelously.

The RS Feva is a great little boat, and for those who want to push "racing racing racing" that's a good option. Might also help a program push costs down with numbers/availability.

 

Some good threads with informed opinions on this very topic, here's a starter

FB- Doug

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One of the troubling aspects of education is that in reality only about 35% (or so) of students are motivated by grades. 

Similarly in sailing, only a minority of kids find the competitive aspects of the sport to be attractive. 

Learn to Sail needs to appeal to not just kids to like to race. 

There are many other ways to enjoy the sport, and those also should be taught and encouraged. 

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Our club focuses heavily on racing, with about 120 Jr. Sailors in the program each summer.  They move from Opti's to Feva's to Club 420's.  There is also an element of big-boat sailing using loaned boats for training in teamwork, sail handling, safety procedures and racing.  

An interesting idea might be to extend the big-boat program to Jr. Sailors who are not just interested in racing.  Non-racers could take a big-boat out on a short cruise (with instructors) and have it back for the owner by the weekend. Or they could deliver it to a desired port, where the owner could start HIS sailing vacation. They could sail to "away" regattas to cheer for their team mates who were racing there.  This would help show Jr. Sailors more ways to enjoy sailing and help them keep learning and motivated about it.    

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7 hours ago, PaulK said:

Our club focuses heavily on racing, with about 120 Jr. Sailors in the program each summer.  They move from Opti's to Feva's to Club 420's.  There is also an element of big-boat sailing using loaned boats for training in teamwork, sail handling, safety procedures and racing.  

An interesting idea might be to extend the big-boat program to Jr. Sailors who are not just interested in racing.  Non-racers could take a big-boat out on a short cruise (with instructors) and have it back for the owner by the weekend. Or they could deliver it to a desired port, where the owner could start HIS sailing vacation. They could sail to "away" regattas to cheer for their team mates who were racing there.  This would help show Jr. Sailors more ways to enjoy sailing and help them keep learning and motivated about it.    

Do you think the Feva has enough traction in the U.S. that clubs can invest in boats as a nice intermediate trainer?

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50 minutes ago, MikeR80 said:

This sport is going to be rebuilt in USA one family at a time, putting their foot down and kicking junior off the dock in his or her opti (or similar) and forcing them to stay in the sport through the end of HS.  If my 3.5 year old doesnt hike his opti flat, he knows he's not getting dinner that night.  Its not that complicated, and its not about a certain progression of boats that is the secret sauce.  Its about the latest generation of american parents letting their kids run the show, and the sport has suffered for it.

A few years back when I was in the junior program we took racing very serious, oh and those  last few years we had 3 really hot college girl coaches. 

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8 hours ago, VWAP said:

A few years back when I was in the junior program we took racing very serious, oh and those  last few years we had 3 really hot college girl coaches. 

I think we've stumbled on the solution.

Seriously though, I've seen a kid jump from Opti to A-Cat because nothing else was interesting. I can't say I blame him.

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11 hours ago, onepointfivethumbs said:

Do you think the Feva has enough traction in the U.S. that clubs can invest in boats as a nice intermediate trainer?

Our club has three of them. Not sure how many others at the club might be privately owned.  Thirteen Fevas participated in our Jr. regatta last summer (the first one to include Feva's), with boats coming from seven other clubs besides ours.  Also at the regatta were thirteen Club 420's and fifteen Lasers.  (Our regatta is scheduled at the same time as the local Jr. Championships, to provide an event for those who have not qualified for the championship.) The Fevas seem to be pretty sturdy and fun to sail.  Jr. sailors appear to like sailing with a crew, learning about the jib and spinnaker, and the responsiveness of the boats. We had issues with Pixels not holding up well and needing lots of expensive and time-consuming repairs. 

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I did the same sort of progression in junior sailing, I got to big for optimist pretty quick and soon to big for laser radial, which is all they for juniors locally. Past that the 420 is the only boat used for high school and college Sailing, which is to small for most big guys to sail in. At my size I weight more then the boat itself. The only junior class I could sail in is thistles, this fleet briefly resurged but died out when people aged out. The skinnier class of kids following them wanted nothing to do with the Thistle. As someone who plans to be a lifelong sailor it is unfortunate to lose my last years of junior sailing and not being able to sail high school or college sailing. Taking the politics out would help as well.

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Things to remember:

  1. The design of the boat is not the most important part of the equation.
  2. Club fleets make classes
  3. Class captains make club fleets

There are many many examples of thriving fleets where the design is not sailed anywhere else at all. In fact, it's possibly an advantage not to be able to move boats away.

For instance, PinkSpinneakers issue isn't a lack of a regional junior class for progression. The problem is that no one has stepped up to keep his local fleet alive.

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5 minutes ago, rgeek said:

Things to remember:

  1. The design of the boat is not the most important part of the equation.
  2. Club fleets make classes
  3. Class captains make club fleets

There are many many examples of thriving fleets where the design is not sailed anywhere else at all. In fact, it's possibly an advantage not to be able to move boats away.

For instance, PinkSpinneakers issue isn't a lack of a regional junior class for progression. The problem is that no one has stepped up to keep his local fleet alive.

Our local high school Naval Junior ROTC program has sailing classes and their own fleet; up until this fall we had 7 FJs and 4 Oday Javelins. The hurricane may have put an end to the program for good, but we might be able to put it back together. http://nbnjrotc-sail.blogspot.com/

The Oday Javelin is a workhorse of a boat. When we were donated the first one about eight years ago, the coaches all hated it. Part of the problem was blown-out OEM sails, but it became apparent that they are good teaching boats, and enough fun to sail that we like them quite a bit now. The beginners sailing course (and this is for high school kids who have never been in..... or even near..... a boat of any kind) is all in the Javelins, and they get qualified as a skipper which means they need to be able to supervise the rigging of the boat, sail to any given point or around a given course, bring the boat to a stop at any given point, and understand the basic Right-Of-Way rules. Along the way, they soak up enough seamanship, capsize drill, and safe boating practices, that they are among the best skippers around here. Most of them, I would loan my own boat to, with no hesitation.

You might guess from the above that RACING forms -no- part of the program. In the past we used the FJ fleet to hold regattas but the events couldn't pay for themselves much less wear & tear on the boats, so we stopped. At other times past, we had a 5O5 which was an awesome trainer for the bigger kids who had become bored with chasing each other around in the FJs. Most of the advanced sailing training now is oriented towards STEM subjects, navigation, communications, physics, etc.

But my point was the Javelins are great boats for this. We could race them, if anybody wanted to. But the course is structured that the kids always have something new to learn and practice, and they get to do it as a group and make their own fun. That's the key IMHO.

FB- Doug

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On 12/29/2018 at 3:37 PM, onepointfivethumbs said:

With foiling and multihulls, what's the entry point into that pipeline? Seems like the UFO and the Waszp are targeted as entry-level/club-level foilers to get you into the game cheaper than a used Moth, but plenty of Mothies have never touched a Waszp. I'd think that a kid who knows how to trap and fly a kite would be able to adapt to the Nacra 15, so do you end up scalping kids from the 29er->49er pipeine to do that? 

Seems like there are lots of great boats coming along that kids could enjoy and which will endure as OD classes, like the RS Aero. Should clubs start buying Aeros and 5/7/9 rigs so both the newly liberated Opti kids can play with the post-Laser/pre-Finn size boys? What about asymmetric hiking dinghies like the RS Feva or the Topaz Vibe? The Bic O'pen was supposed to be a nice transition out of the Opti, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

You have set the issue as  What equipment will foster the greatest conversion of juniors to life long Racers....    You assumption is that it's the equipment and superior optimization of the equipment not the competition and the game that drives the process of creating sailboat racers...      I disagree... I think its the competition pipeline that is most important.  ....   the comment that only 35% of students are motivated by grades... means that of all the kids in the region..... its likely that only a third want to compete in something like sports... Sailboat racing is just one of the possible sports and obviously sailboat racing opportunities are not widely distributed.   Assuming a kid has the opportunity to sail and wants to compete...  I would argue the team and the coaches, that are close by, aka the competition pipeline,  have more to do with sticking to the game then a detail such as  optimal skill development in say trapezing.... eg   getting the sailor from a  420 to an i420 to a 29ner to a n15.   I think Stuart Walkers insight about building a sustainable competitive culture applies to junior sailing  as well....    To sum up Stuart...... ask what does the last guy in the fleet pecking order get out of competing,    You have to deliver that..... or you will be n -1 and asking the same question for the new last guy in the pecking order.  Bottom line... the junior competitors melt away when what they need from the competition in sailboat racing goes away....

So for juniors.... the critical mass of sailors issue means that the equipment used is tough to change.... and seeing results from better equipment will ONLY will work when you have a great handle on the competition pipeline for those kids.  

Just my opinion...  I doubt that they melt away because the equipment is less then optimal.   (Mind you.... learning this lesson as a fan of great sailing machines eg  A cats and Tornados... was a looong time in coming much of which was spent while pushing the rock up the hill....    as a Devoti and a 505 owner.... take a look at the juniors who come lusting for your boats.... Its just not a common thing),   So....finding a way to build a sustainable competitive culture with juniors who are aging in and out of the program is tough.... 

Last point... I think the unique to the US collegiate sailing scene and its hook to elite US Universities is a complicating factor here as well....   (see your comment about 8 years roll tacking a 420 as crew).  How this system effects the psychology of junior competitors is a mystery to me.

 

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17 hours ago, Tcatman said:

You have set the issue as  What equipment will foster the greatest conversion of juniors to life long Racers....    You assumption is that it's the equipment and superior optimization of the equipment not the competition and the game that drives the process of creating sailboat racers...      I disagree... I think its the competition pipeline that is most important.  ....   the comment that only 35% of students are motivated by grades... means that of all the kids in the region..... its likely that only a third want to compete in something like sports... Sailboat racing is just one of the possible sports and obviously sailboat racing opportunities are not widely distributed.   Assuming a kid has the opportunity to sail and wants to compete...  I would argue the team and the coaches, that are close by, aka the competition pipeline,  have more to do with sticking to the game then a detail such as  optimal skill development in say trapezing.... eg   getting the sailor from a  420 to an i420 to a 29ner to a n15.   I think Stuart Walkers insight about building a sustainable competitive culture applies to junior sailing  as well....    To sum up Stuart...... ask what does the last guy in the fleet pecking order get out of competing,    You have to deliver that..... or you will be n -1 and asking the same question for the new last guy in the pecking order.  Bottom line... the junior competitors melt away when what they need from the competition in sailboat racing goes away....

So for juniors.... the critical mass of sailors issue means that the equipment used is tough to change.... and seeing results from better equipment will ONLY will work when you have a great handle on the competition pipeline for those kids.  

Just my opinion...  I doubt that they melt away because the equipment is less then optimal.   (Mind you.... learning this lesson as a fan of great sailing machines eg  A cats and Tornados... was a looong time in coming much of which was spent while pushing the rock up the hill....    as a Devoti and a 505 owner.... take a look at the juniors who come lusting for your boats.... Its just not a common thing),   So....finding a way to build a sustainable competitive culture with juniors who are aging in and out of the program is tough.... 

Last point... I think the unique to the US collegiate sailing scene and its hook to elite US Universities is a complicating factor here as well....   (see your comment about 8 years roll tacking a 420 as crew).  How this system effects the psychology of junior competitors is a mystery to me.

 

With the "35% competition statistic", I remember putting groups of 3 or 4 opti-sized kids in a 420 so they could sail with their friends, and from what I can tell many clubs are also pushing the "adventure" aspect of their junior camps.

The bigger question I see is how do you take kids from going to a weeklong sailing camp and getting them to the point that they want Dad to buy them an opti/radial/420 and continue sailing when there are additional time demands like club soccer/swimming/hockey etc. Sure, some people come from "sailing families" and end up sailing every summer so they keep doing it, but what about the rest of the unwashed masses?

Would something like a c420 or a feva "timeshare" help that? Or even my own millenial generation, being able to go to a club and "check out" a Cal 25 or a J/22 so they can drink Red Stripe with their college buddies?

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55 minutes ago, onepointfivethumbs said:

The bigger question I see is how do you take kids from going to a weeklong sailing camp and getting them to the point that they want Dad to buy them an opti/radial/420 and continue sailing when there are additional time demands like club soccer/swimming/hockey etc.

1

You don't. You provide a fleet of boats available on a pay to play basis

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23 hours ago, onepointfivethumbs said:

To sum up Stuart...... ask what does the last guy in the fleet pecking order get out of competing,    You have to deliver that..... or you will be n -1 and asking the same question for the new last guy in the pecking order.  Bottom line... the junior competitors melt away when what they need from the competition in sailboat racing goes away....

So for juniors.... the critical mass of sailors issue means that the equipment used is tough to change.... and seeing results from better equipment will ONLY will work when you have a great handle on the competition pipeline for those kids.  

Just my opinion...  I doubt that they melt away because the equipment is less then optimal.   (Mind you.... learning this lesson as a fan of great sailing machines eg  A cats and Tornados... was a looong time in coming much of which was spent while pushing the rock up the hill....    as a Devoti and a 505 owner.... take a look at the juniors who come lusting for your boats.... Its just not a common thing),   So....finding a way to build a sustainable competitive culture with juniors who are aging in and out of the program is tough.... 



Based on many of the comments here and much anecdotal evidence, the "competition pipeline" does not seem to be the route to broadening and deepening participation in sailing.  What does the last guy in the fleet pecking order get out of competing?  If he or she is coming in last every time but still keeps going, it cannot be because of the competition. Other aspects of sailing must appeal to that person.  Perhaps the social interaction at the club or within the crew.  Maybe the desire to feel the wind and waves as they sail the boat. Possibly an acceptable excuse to escape from something else like cleaning out the gutters, or a reason to spend time with the family . (Our club has an annual Parent-Child race in dinghies of the different fleets. Getting Mom or Dad into an Opti without it capsizing can be an adventure in itself!)  Some sailors do appreciate the competition, but others have other reasons.  These reasons need to be developed in order to broaden sailing's appeal. Taking junior sailors on cruises - even single overnights - is one way to do this. Leading a fleet of dinghies off to a beach picnic, or to visit a nearby club is another.  A sailing program I taught at had a beach-camping overnight capping the end of the eight-week season.  

Could one week "learn to sail" sessions, mentioned in earlier posts,  be counter-productive?  Soccer, baseball tennis and football clinics work well with that format, but children get to play those extensively outside of the one-week "camps".  The clinics help provide them things to focus on and techniques that they can practice long after they return home.  Do they get to sail at all outside of the one-week session?  Does offering one week sailing sessions imply that students can learn how to sail in just one week, and that's all there is to it?  Students in such a program might finish feeling frustrated because they hadn't been able to master many, if any, aspects of the sport. Why bother continuing if that's all there is?  Our club's full program goes for eight weeks each summer.  To accommodate family summer trips and students "trying the waters" we also divide the season into four-week halves for beginners. This enables us to show kids more about the fun they can have sailing and also ends up helping them learn enough skills to feel they have accomplished something. The longer program also shows them that they have developed skills that they can build upon if they return the next season.                  

Having a reasonable progression of boats as students learn more about sailing and physically grow bigger and more capable is important. Having a consensus among programs about having the same boats (e.g. Opti's/Lasers/Fevas/C420s) does help develop the competitive nature of sailing, but also builds the social aspects that appeal to those who aren't winning all the time. The Opti-Rumble we host at our club each summer brings in almost 100 boats from neighboring clubs. It is a blast for everyone involved. Junior sailors get to meet new people, see new places, and learn about sailing in situations that are different from "home".  

Competition from other pass-times is a major hurdle to increasing the number of sailors. The 9-5 workday routine has expanded to feel more like 24/7/365. People are too busy working to have time to maintain a boat. Children need support at soccer games. Rents and mortgages take too much from paychecks for young couples to afford a boat, a mooring, a club.  Sailing needs to be made more attractive, with options besides racing, in order to grow.     

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