"Don't touch anything, let them do it (not easy)"...racing with young teens

nolatom

Super Anarchist
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New Orleans
Our community sailing center had a regatta day yesterday, nice day out on the Lake (Pontchartrain), coulda used a bit more wind, but not too bad. Four teenage students on our boat (Gary Mull-design Independence-20), racing against three others, with the grownups there to help as little as possible and let them do it.

Oh boy, is that hard to do! I had to keep from reaching out for the tiller or sheet, was mostly successful but I probably did more tactician advice than I should have ideally. Remember the flick "Dr. Strangelove", where the Peter Sellers mad-scientist kept hitting his right arm with his left, to keep from saluting? I almost had to do that.

And ran my mouth too much? Maybe, though I heard other boat guides doing it too, especially in the whistle countdown to the start. ;-) We got in four short windward-leeward races.

Great group of kids in the 15-16 age range, they'd had around 5 lessons so they knew much but racing was new. They got into the spirit of it though, and moved the boat pretty well. Yeah, they pinched too much which kills you in light air chop, but usually corrected themselves just in time. I did have to remind them to sit to leeward if they could, to induce some heel in the light stuff upwind.

But I could see and feel them getting better each race, becoming more of a team, and talking about what to do next. I tried to shut up , not always successfully ;-)

How'd we do? I wanted it not to matter too much, it's the teamwork and learning that counts, uh huh uh huh, but they still wanted to win. We got in 4 races, won 3, and dead heat finish in 4th. Most of the other boats had younger kids, so we may have been the "overdogs", but it's still nice to win.

They all had fun, and a little ceremony afterwards with t-shirts, so they all were winners.

How does an old guy (me) relate to teens? By doing something together with a common purpose. We were the only boat without a working Torqueedo, so we had more sail time getting out and getting home, and it was fun just conversing with them, finding out what they've done and where they've been, they were "grownups".

And they glided into the slip just perfectly after dousing sail.

When can we do this again? ;-)
 
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Mid

Blues Rule
with the grownups there to help as little as possible and let them do it.
'had a similar experience sailing on an Outward Bound sail trainer Ji Fung.

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TJSoCal

Super Anarchist
Sounds like a blast.

I think you can go a long way by asking open-ended questions rather than telling. Just “what should we be thinking about right now?” or “do yo like where the weight is?” will stimulate them to recognize “I should be thinking about something right now” or “we need to pay attention to weight.”
 

Zonker

Super Anarchist
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Great to hear. My wife sailed with Alex Thompson once on paid charter boat (Farr 65?) for Antigua Race Week. He was apparently super chill and said "there will be no yelling unless someone or the boat is in immediate danger of being hurt". You can raise your voice a bit to be heard but tone is important. Keep it fun and accept that crew mistakes are part of it.
 

CMcG

New member
Oh boy, is that hard to do! I had to keep from reaching out for the tiller or sheet, was mostly successful but I probably did more tactician advice than I should have ideally. Remember the flick "Dr. Strangelove", where the Peter Sellers mad-scientist kept hitting his right arm with his left, to keep from saluting? I almost had to do that.
I know the feeling.
I'm coaching a load of 16-17 year olds in the sea scouts and I just cant understand them. When I was that age everything was a competition, and all the kids I learned to sail with felt the same. These kids just seem to have no interest in competition, which is fine, but I think you need to be a bit competitive to push yourself and your boat and get the most out of it.
These kids are great, they love being out on the water, they are very comfortable sailing, maybe a little too comfortable. They sit about chatting while their sails are flapping away and they are going nowhere. It drives me mad watching it because I simply don't understand it. Even when I am cruising I can't leave off trimming the sails. If I see any other boat anywhere then straight away I'm racing it, even if they don't know it.
The kids seem happy though so I don't push them, just come up alongside them every now and then and ask them if they can think of any way to improve their speed. They usually make a token gesture to sail trim while I'm there and then continue their chats.
Fair play to you for taking the time to help those kids. I'm sure they had a great time.
 

nolatom

Super Anarchist
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652
New Orleans
Yup, racing "ruins" us, always tweaking to get another quarter of a knot speed when we're going, uh, nowhere and back, and there are no marks.

Worse yet, you're dying to correct that boat near you who has sails strapped in way too much on a broad reach. Everyone over-trims it seems, why don't they listen to my thought waves and fix it?

Doomed.

;-)
 
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CruiserJim

Anarchist
When I was a teen in Sea Scouts, I was very fortunate that the skipper of our ship had the patience of Job, and would pretty much let us do everything, it must have been torture for him at times, but we learned, had fun and became proficient. In my several years of sailing with him along the coast from SF bay down to Ensenada, I can remember just one time where he took over. We were anchored bow and stern in Little Harbor on Catalina, a front had come thru overnight and waves were breaking over the reef into the cove. He took the helm, saying he was going to do it because if we fouled the prop we’d lose the boat. I certainly didn’t mind, it was pretty intense.
 

The Q

Super Anarchist
Too many kids today are brought up where everyone gets a prize..
If everyone gets a prize what's the point in competing?

I wish I could be issued with earplugs some times.. I'm out sailing and all you can hear is the teenage girls in the other boats, chatting to each other ... Chatting? every other word appears to be "OMG" or " Like"
 

Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
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Yup, racing "ruins" us, always tweaking to get another quarter of a knot speed when we're going, uh, nowhere and back, and there are no marks.

Worse yet, you're dying to correct that boat near you who has sails strapped in way too much on a broad reach. Everyone over-trims it seems, why don't they listen to my thought waves and fix it?

Doomed.

;-)

I wouldn't say that racing "dooms" anybody, but the way sailing is often taught, as though "racing" was the main goal, does seem to doom the majority of the students to eventual dissatisfaction and not pursuing the sport of sailing further.

To me there are a couple of very important... critical, even... points in this episode. Points that are IMHO almost always overlooked by sailing teachers: 1- let the students make mistakes. This is how they learn the fastest, and also how to reinforce lessons that they have learned but not fully applying yet. 2- Let the students talk about their sailing experience (meager though it seems to us) and tell their sea stories. If you listen to them, you give them the status of being sailors -and- as an instructor you gain valuable insight on the state of their knowledge.

As for teaching racing, I don't see the point. If you teach the students to have excellent skills in sailing, they will do well in races with less coaching and eventually with none. And you're not going to follow them around all their life, are you?!?!
 

nolatom

Super Anarchist
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New Orleans
I meant it mostly in jest, "Doomed" wasn't meant to mean I'm unhappy about "sailing the other guy's boat", which I confess i do, sometimes.

Banging around the harbor alone in a Turnabout taught me the basics, the "hard" way. Some kids got taught at the racing junior yacht club, I didn't, more like "learn (eventually) by doing".

Racing then taught me how to sail better, after getting my ass kicked by the yacht club kids, and eventually figuring out why. I learned to dope out and use expected windshifts to reach the windward mark sooner. Collegiate racing and frostbiting in dinghies eventually taught me tactics.

Much of this was useful when I occasionally did deliveries, and had to suss out a schedule, weather, and pick harbors. Or was just on a cruise.

Maybe we both mean the same thing from different angles? Sailing in a variety of venues, boats, waters, and objectives, makes us better sailors.
 
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Squalamax

Super Anarchist
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I know the feeling.
I'm coaching a load of 16-17 year olds in the sea scouts and I just cant understand them. When I was that age everything was a competition, and all the kids I learned to sail with felt the same. These kids just seem to have no interest in competition, which is fine, but I think you need to be a bit competitive to push yourself and your boat and get the most out of it.
These kids are great, they love being out on the water, they are very comfortable sailing, maybe a little too comfortable. They sit about chatting while their sails are flapping away and they are going nowhere. It drives me mad watching it because I simply don't understand it. Even when I am cruising I can't leave off trimming the sails. If I see any other boat anywhere then straight away I'm racing it, even if they don't know it.
The kids seem happy though so I don't push them, just come up alongside them every now and then and ask them if they can think of any way to improve their speed. They usually make a token gesture to sail trim while I'm there and then continue their chats.
Fair play to you for taking the time to help those kids. I'm sure they had a great time.
When I was 16-17 all I thought about was chasing tail..................competing came second(pun intended)
 

Howler

Member
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169
I wouldn't say that racing "dooms" anybody, but the way sailing is often taught, as though "racing" was the main goal, does seem to doom the majority of the students to eventual dissatisfaction and not pursuing the sport of sailing further.

To me there are a couple of very important... critical, even... points in this episode. Points that are IMHO almost always overlooked by sailing teachers: 1- let the students make mistakes. This is how they learn the fastest, and also how to reinforce lessons that they have learned but not fully applying yet. 2- Let the students talk about their sailing experience (meager though it seems to us) and tell their sea stories. If you listen to them, you give them the status of being sailors -and- as an instructor you gain valuable insight on the state of their knowledge.

As for teaching racing, I don't see the point. If you teach the students to have excellent skills in sailing, they will do well in races with less coaching and eventually with none. And you're not going to follow them around all their life, are you?!?!

Read this, you'll like it: Saving Sailing book
 

TJSoCal

Super Anarchist
The trick, the magic, is to be able to see into the future a bit and to pad the sharp edges of the world just enough that mistakes will hurt but won't cause serious damage.
One of my favorite sayings is "good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment."
 

Howler

Member
172
169
I have read it. Nice idea.

I'm pretty sure that centering sailing as a family-together type activity will not "save" it; nowadays for more people prefer to not interact with their kids. Look around at any popular restaurant.
Optimistically for humanity's future, I'll argue that there's a selection bias in play, and that the parents who enjoy family dinner with their kids are under-represented in this particular sample.
 

The Q

Super Anarchist
My club is a family club.. We have a sailing school, run by the club, the kids (8 years old +) want to go sailing with their mates.. The parents come down to bring them, they get bored waiting and then learn to sail themselves through the club..
 

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