Monday, September 21, 2015

Reflections from the President - Soaking Wet

by Tom Hubbell

I’m actually a fan of formal dining. My parents were pretty formal and although we lived on an engineer and a social worker’s income, they routinely enjoyed formal meals at home or occasionally in restaurants. But with a few fantastic exceptions, a club that focuses on white tablecloth dining rooms is missing the ingredients it takes to have a vibrant sailing hub.

I submit that the single best indicator of a vibrant sailing institution is whether it is normal to see a soaking wet 12-year-old in a life jacket gadding about in the common areas of the club - not the junior sailing hut, but the club’s primary facility. 

I have enjoyed sailing and visiting many clubs and community sailing centers each year all over the country in my 14 years of involvement with the US Sailing Board of Directors. When junior sailing is active and welcome within the ‘adult’ spaces it is much more likely to become a multigenerational club. When kids are in this space there is a level of excitement that is contagious. Junior sailing encourages more training programs offered by these organizations. Clubs that discover the value of training for all ages and skill levels, including race management and safety, quickly see increased participation across the board.

If you can’t wait for the kids to grow up and populate your club, then you’ll want to recruit young adults and former collegiate sailors looking for new opportunities. I don’t hear them clamoring for white tablecloth dining either. I believe they are looking for a welcoming place, lower membership costs, access to club-owned boats, reasonably priced burgers and beer, and a shower.

And while solo boats and couples boats are fun, it may be that three-person one-designs and three or four-person boats in PHRF fleets are a necessary backbone for sustainability. There must be a reason that Thistles, Flying Scots, Lightnings, J/22s and J/24s are practically everywhere and I suspect the reason is the social glue for which they are famous. They are inviting to mixed-gender, multigenerational teams. They offer local, regional, and national levels of competition.

Out of necessity, community sailing centers have been getting this right and, guess what, they are booming. Informal, inexpensive, welcoming, focused on training and fun – those are the buzz words for growth. You can still have a nice dining room upstairs as long as it doesn’t compromise having young sailors having the run of the place.

Tom Hubbell

President of US Sailing

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

US Sailing’s Reach – A Youth Experience in South Carolina

In May of 2015, seven teachers and 27 sixth grade students from the Reach Club at the Creek Bridge Middle School in Marion, South Carolina made the two-and-a-half hour drive from their landlocked community to Charleston, one of the most popular sailing destinations in the country.

Wayne Burdick, President of Beneteau, Inc., spent the last year and a half collaborating with US Sailing and the Marion County School District to engage area youth in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) through the sport of sailing.

Fifty students learned STEM through the US Sailing Reach initiative over the past four months. This experience featured a field trip to the Beneteau Group factory in Marion, where students learned how sailboats are designed and built. At the successful conclusion of the student’s Reach studies, they went to the College of Charleston to sail with the school’s nationally recognized sailing team. Only two of the students had ever been on the water prior to this experience.

“There are few times in my career that have been more gratifying in the ‘big picture’ of life than the day spent seeing the Reach students sail on a beautiful day at the College of Charleston Sailing Center,” said Burdick. “Thanks to the support of our Marion team, where beautiful Jeanneau and Beneteau sailboats are built each day, and thanks to some of the finest collegiate sailors acting as skipper and superior role models for the kids, the event was a wonderful culmination for the introduction of this US Sailing program to an inland school.”

Beneteau Group has partnered with the Marion schools for the upcoming school year and will be implementing Reach in sixth and seventh grade classrooms at the Creek Bridge School.

The implementation of the Reach program in Marion serves as a great example and a blueprint for other schools to follow. By partnering with sailing programs, organizations, and businesses in the industry, schools can learn how to introduce more youth to STEM education and sailing.

“We hope to expand upon this initiative of using sailing as a basis for catalyzing middle school students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Burdick.

Thanks to the Beneteau Group, which includes the Jeanneau America, Beneteau America and the BGM America factory in Marion, the students at Creek Bridge Middle School have seen a world outside of their small South Carolina town. US Sailing’s Reach initiative gives the students an opportunity to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math while getting out on the water.
And as Burdick says, “There is nothing more important than that.”

“We thank the team at Beneteau Group for the time and dedication they put into this project, as well as Nathan Indergaard and the school’s leadership and staff at Creek Bridge Middle School,” said Servis.

“They tried something new, learned about sailing, and used their creativity for a unique learning opportunity for their students. We would also like to recognize the College of Charleston Sailing Team and the leadership of Coach Greg Fisher. Thank you for taking the time and effort to introduce these individuals to the great sport of sailing.”

Learn more about US Sailing's Reach.

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 27 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.”