Thursday, July 23, 2015

Perfect Formula for a Blown-Out Regatta

A weather alert forecasting over 20 knots of winds and 5 to 7 foot seas wasn’t good news for Kathy Allyn, Chairwoman of the USA Junior Olympic Festival at the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club (MHYC) on Lake Erie in June. With 126 participants, aged 7 to 18 arriving for the event with their parents, she had to think fast.

So, Kathy flipped her plans for the US Sailing Skill Builder Clinic scheduled during the Festival. Normally, the clinic is structured with Day 1 to include both classroom and on-the-water instruction. Days 2 and 3 offer on-the-water coaching during the race. But mother nature had other plans, so Kathy worked with the clinic coaches to adapt to the situation. Day 1 was spent racing (prior to the inclement weather) followed by two-days, either in the classroom or on-the-water, in small groups. Coaching young sailors to manage small boats in tough conditions proved to be an important learning experience for everyone.

The kids had a great time, and went home with confidence in their ability to manage waves, wind, and gusty conditions – the kind of conditions they are usually told to avoid.

US Sailing is providing nationally recognized sailing coaches at many of the 37 Junior Olympic Festivals held around the country this year.

The top notch coaches interact with everyone involved, from volunteers to coaches, as well as instructional staff and race officers. These clinics build the collective skill set and raise the level of expertise for all.

The MHYC event welcomed top coaches from George Washington University, Stanford University, and the College of Charleston.

“The lead coaches bring national and international experience to the local level and help to mentor the next generation of coaches,” said John Pearce, Head Coach at George Washington University.

It’s always a relief when bad luck is transformed into good. “It ended up being more of a sailing conference for kids,” said Kathy, who plans all the MHYC junior activities. It’s likely that Kathy’s quick thinking, rather than luck, resulted in this unexpected success. Great job, Kathy.

Science at the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover

What do science, technology, engineering, math and ocean conservation have to do with the Volvo Ocean Race? Well, just about everything!

Sail Newport, Sailors for the Sea, and 11th Hour Racing worked together to host the Exploration Zone at the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover in May. The US Sailing Reach program teaches STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education through sailing, and what better place to spotlight the connection than the Volvo Stopover?

Harken generously partnered with US Sailing for this event providing an interactive display where kids explore mechanical advantage through various purchase systems. The kids were then challenged to scour the stopover village on a simple machine scavenger hunt. One of their favorites is the 75mm winch on the Volvo 65s, a great example of a wheel and axle.

Class field trips, organized by schools from four states, sent a total of 2,780 students. Parents from across the country brought their kids to the stopover and the Exploration Zone. Nearly 10,000 youth explored 22 interactive exhibits. The Exploration Zone inspired visitors of all ages to learn more about the sport of sailing, the ocean, and to discover continents and cultures around the world through the lens of this amazing ocean race.

Thanks to Harken, Sail Newport, and Sailors for the Sea for all of their efforts in coordinating the Exploration Zone and to 11th Hour Racing and SCA for their sponsorship. The kids had a blast!

A Generational Perspective on “Youth Champs”

“There was a time I got to play at this level, and it was really fun,” said Ed Baird. “It’s great to be here watching my kids race and enjoy the sailing the way I did and still do today.”

Perched on top of the new Roger Williams University Sailing Center’s viewing deck, Ed Baird peered through his binoculars at the Laser Radial fleet in action on Mount Hope Bay. He couldn’t help being nostalgic as he watched his two sons, Nic and Ty, race at the U.S. Youth Sailing Championships.

The former Laser and J/24 World Champion, and two-time winner of the America’s Cup (one as helm, one as coach) has an interesting take on the state of youth racing in the U.S.

“It’s impressive to see how the overall skill level has changed from when I sailed here. The sailors at this level today are so far beyond where we were at this age. They’ve become so talented through great coaching and support.”

Beyond his role as a supportive dad, Ed was also focused on the racing from a coach’s perspective.

“As a coach, you assume everyone at this level is going to perform the maneuvers well. What you want to determine is - do they know how to decide if the maneuver or the boat speed is what they need in that situation? Can they recognize things like cloud formations and changes in currents for the next race or leg? You see a lot of these kids developing that type of maturity, and they experience the value of those decisions here at Youth Champs.”

Ed’s son Nic (pictured) is big fan of championships that include multiple classes and sailors from around the country. Fresh off his come-from-behind win at Youth Champs, Nic discussed what this event means to him.

“I had some very beneficial talks with some of the I-420 coaches and sailors about split tacks,” said Nic. “Just to be able to talk to other sailors and learn from their strategies is a great experience. Sailing different types of boats, in different kinds of racing, is really good for us as sailors. First of all, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s also really cool to see how other sailors approach these situations. I try to learn from that.”

Ed’s circle of sailing friends goes back decades, when he was a young promising sailor racing at championships like this event.

For coverage from the 2015 U.S. Youth Sailing Championships, visit the event website.

*Photo credit to Matt Cohen

Friday, June 5, 2015

ESPN 30 For 30 Ted Turner's Greatest Race

Narrated by Gary Jobson, Past President of US Sailing

When Ted Turner entered his yacht Tenacious in the famed Fastnet Race in 1979, he did not need to prove himself. Turner already had the following on his résumé: founder of a television network, owner of the Atlanta Hawks and Braves, and, most appropriate here, winner of the 1977 America’s Cup. Still, he loved to sail and loved to race with his crew of carefully selected mates. This race would prove to be like no other Turner had ever entered when a freak storm turned the Celtic Sea into chaos. When the winds stopped and the race was over, many of the 303 entrants hadn’t even finished and, tragically, 15 sailors had lost their lives. The victorious crew of the Tenacious relive the voyage, of which Turner famously said: “I was more afraid of losing than I was of dying.”

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Reflections from the President

by Tom Hubbell

A Tale of Two Teammates

I struggled to return to reality after the second Florida Thistle regatta. We had so much fun! Kathy, at 24, perpetually happy and energetic kept the old guys on our toes. Mark, our rock star teammate, started thinking and planning the day on the water as soon as his eyelids popped open in the morning.

After a not-so-great weekend long ago I realized that the first step to enjoyable racing is a compatible, enjoyable team. No matter how intensely you race, there is a lot of time to pass in the boat, in the boat-park, and on the road with your teammates. I became aware that it’s the playmates that count and everything else is secondary.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Growing a Frostbiting Fleet on Long Island Sound

“Just remember, when it’s snowing you can see the wind shifts.”

That’s the motto of a group of sailors that race in the Long Island Sound every Sunday from October through April off the Riverside Yacht Club docks in Riverside, Conn. The group sails in the renowned Dyer Dinghy, a 10-foot, single sailboat that is easy to learn but difficult to master.

Known as the Riverside Dyer Dinghy Association (RDDA), the group believes that the winter months on Long Island Sound offer some of the most spectacular sailing and exciting one-design racing. The weather conditions vary from balmy breezes and warm water in October to shoveling snow out of the boats in February. They sail in wind that can be anywhere from zero to 20 knots and the diverse group of both men and women range in age from mid-teens to late-60s. But it’s because of the organization’s enthusiasm that it’s grown to become a leader, with one the largest, if not the largest frostbiting fleets in the country.

Will Morrison, the RDDA Fleet Co-Captain, attributes this to not just a great antidote to cabin fever, but Dyer frostbiting appeals to those with limited time as well as consistent communication with members.

“We have a launch meeting at the beginning of the season to go through the upcoming schedule, SI’s, dock assignments, race committee obligations, chartering or sharing a boat, and the waiver,” he says. “Non-Riverside Yacht Club members are given limited access to the Club and we also make an effort to arrange for a boat share if a charter is not available. Weekly emails are sent that summarizes the Sunday racing experience and include racing tips from the top finishers.”

The group also cultivates an environment of helping racers new to the program with the quirks of the Dyer, while there’s also a focus on safety with racers wearing dry suits and ample chase boats that are made available.

In the 2013/2014 season, RDDA added 10 boats to their fleet achieving a new record with a total of 79 participants in the series. This means crowded start lines of sometimes 50+ boats, but it also means that the growing fleet has created camaraderie amongst sailors with a revival in one-design racing, and that there is a demand for Dyer Dinghies once again.

The Dyers are single handed so there is no searching for crew. The boats are dry sailed from the Club docks in a racing “arena” immediately off the shore. The boats are easy to set up in just 15 minutes and the races are short, typically 20 minutes with six races per day, with the teenagers consistently challenging the more experienced members of the fleet for the lead.

RDDA Fleet Co-Captain Dana O'Brien says that one of the primary factors involved in sustaining the fleet is the boat itself. Dyers not only have tremendous longevity, but they are also simple with just a few strings to pull and freeze. Additionally, Dyers are highly regulated, relatively dry, and easy to store in the off-season.

“Dyers are inexpensive to buy or charter and have an extremely low maintenance cost of just $20-$50 per year,” he said. “We have been successful in arranging shares for newcomers of a boat that is underutilized and they are all basically very equal. Dyers can be handled well by anyone ages 15-75 and we use a ballast to equalize the total of boat and skipper weight across the fleet.”
The RDDA fleet includes vintage boats from the 1960’s that have been lovingly maintained as well as brand new boats.

Further innovations over the years have been made by the fleet in pursuit of reasonable cost and fun one-design racing. Custom blades were designed to enhance stability and performance and the fleet purchases new sails in one large fleet purchase every four or five years. This means that every fleet member has an identical sail with an identical age. 

The RDDA wants to encourage participation at all levels, so special clinics are hosted by professional sailing instructors of Riverside Yacht Club as well as private sessions. It not only helps newer racers with basic boat handling tactics and rules, but also advances experienced skippers through detailed critiques. The group feels as though these factors open up interest in Team and Match Racing from the basic fleet racing. Participation awards are given at an awards dinner and RDDA hosts lunches throughout the year.

Membership in the RDDA is open to all, with the assistance of sponsorship by a member of Riverside Yacht Club. The success of the RDDA program has attracted sailors from a growing area that extends well beyond the town lines of Riverside and can be attributed to the creative innovations of its members and the ability to create a model of one-design sailing that appeals to many different levels of sailors.

Learn more about the Riverside Dyer Dinghy Association Frostbiting Fleet.

by Kara DiCamillo

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Letter to the Editor of Sailing Magazine

Dear Sailing Magazine Editor,

In the February edition of Sailing magazine, Nick Hayes published an editorial piece entitled - “Kids should sail because it’s fun, not because it’s homework”. The article made references to US Sailing’s Reach initiative for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. First, a big thanks to Nick for his continued work promoting sailing, and for highlighting these innovative programs.

We would like to take this opportunity to provide your readers with some background on the Reach initiative and address some misconceptions. Much of what Nick discusses regarding sailing and learning, kids and fun, are cornerstones for the Reach program and other STEM sailing initiatives. We are certainly not trying to change the face of youth sailing, but open doors to new possibilities. Reach is a grass-roots program derived from community sailing, the bedrock of learn to sail programs around the country. These organizations are utilizing their infrastructure, expertise and relationships to be a more valuable and relevant resource for their communities.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

US Sailing Adaptive Programs in Action: College of Charleston and Jacob Raymond

When Jacob Raymond returned from Iraq and enrolled at the College of Charleston in 2008, he couldn’t shake the feeling of disconnection from his world.

As a military policeman in the National Guard, Jacob rode convoys and survived a roadside bombing, but like many war veterans, he had a difficult time integrating into the college community.

“I’d witnessed the worst corners of the world, but for my friends it was like nothing had happened,” said Jacob. “They were just living their lives.”

Traverse Area Community Sailing – Connections for Success

Traverse Area Community Sailing (TACS) has come a long way in its first 20 years. This Traverse City, Michigan operation has grown from a small handful of passionate sailors and dedicated volunteer instructors to a full-service sailing center serving over 500 youth and adults each year with US Sailing certified instructors and a fleet of over 100 sail and powerboats.

TACS earned its foothold in community sailing through Youth Learn to Sail programs. Over the years, the all-volunteer Board of Directors has guided the growth of TACS to include Adult Learn to Sail, Advanced Sailing, Adaptive Sailing, Open Sailing, High School Racing Team, and Keelboat programs. In an effort to expand their creative programming to increase participation and introduce newcomers to sailing, TACS has recognized the demand for non-racing related programs for those more interested in experiencing sailing without competition or traditional buoy racing as the focus. They are in the process of launching a new series of programs that foster this type of community interest.

Westwind Sailing’s Success: Innovative Opportunities and Partnerships

“We all have something awesome to offer the kids in our community,” said Diane Wenzel, Executive Director of Westwind Sailing, an organization located in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. that is dedicated to providing safe boating and sailing education for the general public. “We’ve built strong relationships with our neighboring clubs and organizations through the years and our passionate staff has worked hard to grow and expand in new communities.”

And Westwind Sailing has certainly expanded.