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US SAILING Regional Sailing Programs Symposium Fort Myers, FL, May 8 By Jabbo Gordon Safety was the primary hot topic of conversation at US SAILING’s spring regional symposium in Fort Myers, FL, in May. Not only was it first on the agenda, it took up most of the morning’s agenda. Another key issue was attracting and retaining sailors. Finally, there was some discussion about junior travel teams. Stu Gilfillen of US SAILING served as facilitator for the event that was hosted by the Edison Sailing Center, which is headed by Ross and Stephanie Webb. Although US SAILING holds annual symposiums each winter, the sport’s national governing body has started holding regional events each spring and fall to give associations, yacht clubs and sailing squadrons opportunities to discuss concerns and ideas. After the Webbs welcomed everyone and each of the two dozen attendees introduced themselves, Gilfillen opened the session with questions about safety. Several people had experiences to share, ranging from a race committee member’s heart attack during a regatta to an instructor candidate’s scalp laceration from a 420 boom. The group had several suggestions about improving safety procedures. One was establishing liaison with various governmental bodies, such as the Coast Guard and various marine patrols. “This works both ways,” Ross Webb commented. “We have condo residents on the river who will call 911 immediately if they see a kid flip over, and 911 operators know to check with me first.” Another strong suggestion was to have a written emergency procedure that was readily available to everyone in an organization. A laminated copy of the procedure should be in a waterproof box onboard all safety or coach boats. Review of a copy should be mandatory at instructor orientation sessions. One group member recommended having drills periodically to test the procedure and update it, if necessary. For example, it may not be expedient to bring an injured sailor all the way back to a sailing center if an accident occurs across the bay or river, and other landing sites should be identified. “Ask a parent to serve as a pretend emergency vehicle,” he said. “And the kids love it, especially the one who has the ‘made for drill’ injury.” Another suggestion was to have backboards available for people who suffer a back injury. Another safety concern was the number of spectator boats at a youth regatta. Some parents tend to position themselves too close to the action, and one solution is to post buoys with flags to mark exclusion areas. Some sailing instructions warn violators that their youngsters could be penalized for inappropriate “coaching,” but that scenario is difficult to enforce. It is also difficult to keep some powerboats from transiting right through the middle of a regatta. “They have the whole Gulf of Mexico, and they see all the boats, but they choose to go through the middle of a regatta,” Webb said. “I’ve even seen them go through a starting line.” Under the topic of attracting sailors, several people offered many ideas: 30

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• Instead of having half-day sessions (9 to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.), have all-day sessions (9 to 4) to attract the parents who work. • Work with homeschooled children. They can attend sailing sessions almost any time. • Develop communication with marine science projects so youngsters can widen their horizons. • Work with Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Sea Scouts. They offer merit badges for sailing. • Give presentations to civic clubs. Many organizations are searching for local programs. • Institute family and adult programs because parents see how much fun their kids are having. • Widen your program to include recreational sailing as well as racing. Racing is not for everyone. • If an association prefers racing, add team racing and match racing to the curriculum. Although yacht clubs and community sailing programs were both represented, some of the emphasis was on nonprofit organizations. One of the problems that yacht clubs have is that many members don’t want kids running around, especially if those clubs are interested primarily in the dining facilities. However, non-profits have discovered that grants can really help with budget considerations, although many instructors may be volunteers. Purchasing and maintaining equipment is a huge budget item. Gilfillen reviewed several changes that been instituted at US SAILING in the past several months. One major item is the age limit for taking the Level 1 instructors’ course. Until March 1, a candidate had to be 16, and the training department would not cut anyone any slack. But now, a candidate can take the course as long as he or she turns 16 before the calendar year ends. Thus, a person who may not become 16 until December, can go ahead and take the course in September. This new policy has already opened the doors to many young people who have been waiting to take the course. Gilfillen also plugged the next national symposium, which will be in San Diego in February. It will be held in conjunction with the annual yacht club summit and onedesign meeting. When the discussion got around to travel teams and their value to sailing, one of the complaints was that some of the teams were recruiting and taking sailors from local clubs and associations. Their two major pitches are that they offer better coaching and competition than most of the local groups. On the other hand, some representatives agreed that travel teams were a good stepping-stone for more talented sailors who might go on to national and international racing. One attendee commented that he had encouraged a couple of youngsters to go because his club had taken them as far as it could. And naturally, this discussion led to the controversy between racing and recreational sailing. A big consideration with the racing part is money to go to regattas. www.southwindsmagazine.com


Southwindsaugust2013