YOUTH SAILING W
e remember our junior sailing days with warm, fuzzy nostalgia. It was the smell of sun-baked wood, sunscreen and BBQs, and long summer days filled with sailing, swimming and friends. For some of us, sailing got more serious as we progressed into racing. It wasn't all fun and games, or rather, the nature of the fun changed — going fast and doing well became the thing that made us content. As teenagers, some of us started sailing on big boats and following the America's Cup or the Ocean Race. We became athletes in the sport, and devotees to the lifestyle. Becoming a sailing instructor was not unlike having a second childhood. Some of us taught at the same places where we'd grown up, and the long summer days were again filled with sailing, swimming and friends. But suddenly we were in charge, and fun had to be balanced with responsibility. As instructors, many of us went through the same progression we did as kids — from the laid back to the high performance. Suddenly, we were traveling to regattas and investing our emotions into students as if they were our own children. For those of us who became sailing parents, we started the junior-sailing cycle all over again. Even though we were likely watching from the sidelines or stealing time away from work, those long summer days could again be filled with fun on the water, perhaps made more meaningful by the fact that we were passing the thing we love so much on to
our children. We often wonder if sailing is a means by which we harness the joy of youth. For those of us not inclined toward the Peter Pan ethos, perhaps sailing was a way to give something precious to our children; the same gift likely given to us by our parents. We here at Latitude often fret over sailing's dwindling numbers, and wonder what sailing will look like a generation from now. We worry about marine businesses vanishing through attrition because there's no next generation to take over. While we remind ourselves not to worry too much and to allow things to evolve as they may, we recognize that junior sailing is a potential piece of this complex puzzle. Youth sailing has many forms, from basic summer camps to advanced racing clinics. Learning to sail as a kid is certainly not the only way to enter the sport, but sailing as a child sets one up for the lifestyle, be it racing, cruising, or simply the love of sailing. And when you do start young, there's a chance that you're part of a multi-generation affair.
o Bay Area institution represents the strata of generations of youth sailing quite like Richmond Yacht Club. "You get to know the family names. I run into people on the dock all the time that were junior sailors from 60 years ago," said Chris Nash, a multi-generation RYC member whose family started him sailing when he was just 4 years old.
STOCKTON SAILING CLUB
A few Stockton Sailing Club Flying Juniors mix it up on the San Joaquin River.
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From October to April, RYC runs a 16-week program (minus a few weekends here and there) for juniors ranging from beginning to advanced. The program is run by volunteer instructors who are almost exclusively parents. "I've never seen this type of program at another yacht club," said Nick Nash, Chris's son. (There are precious few clubs with this model; we'll discuss another in a bit.) "It's been a great place to grow up and bring my kids to a nurturing environment where everyone encourages the younger generations." Nick — who went on to have his own kids in the program for nearly 12 years — echoed his father's experience of meeting generations of sailors. "Even at 40, I run into people on the dock saying, 'I knew you as a child,' all the time. Every current instructor is an ex-junior-program kid who had their kids in the program." Nick said that the parents give three working days during the course of the program; he and other instructors are there every program day for the threemonth duration. "I can't even tell you how many hours some people give here. But we get more out of it as adults than maybe even the kids," Nick said.
The March 2020 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine