by Rick Bannerot, WindCheck
Some sailors were born there. Others venture there by chance, then there are those who have gone from the dinghy to the world of “big boat” sailing. The first part of this series, Driving Interest & Success in Junior Big Boat Sailing, chronicled many notable junior big boat victories that made headlines in the sailing world, including Young American winning the Vineyard Race in 2013 , High Noon winning the 2016 Newport Bermuda Race. , and Dreamcatcher winning the 2018 Newport Bermuda Race.
Exhilarating stuff to say the least, but definitely not the be-all and end-all when it comes to making Junior Big Boat Sailing something that is not only fun but also instructive functionally; build self-confidence, improve decision-making and encourage more lifelong sailors.
A frequently mentioned objective is to encourage more young people to “go to sea”. Beyond that, whatever the different avenues available, it’s about getting young men and women to develop a sense of pride and identify as “sailors”, not just in their teens , but possibly in adulthood.
When talking with Peter Becker (founder of the Young American Sailing Academy and the Young American Foundation in Rye, NY), about his experience with juniors on big boats, he keeps coming back to the concept of young sailors “getting salty” to describe gaining efficiency. problem-solving techniques, learn and use navigation skills appropriately, and develop confidence.
Becker strives to move the rather daunting idea of teaching teenagers how to go from sailing on a big boat to a teaching/learning process that breaks down the roles and responsibilities of the entire crew so that they can all eventually navigate the boat as a team. .
On one side of Long Island Sound’s successful junior big-boat sailing programs, we cross to Oyster Bay, NY, where ultra-accomplished sailor Dawn Riley is the executive director of Oakcliff Sailing. She imagined and willed success through the courage, determination, sweat, intelligence, fundraising, business acumen and well-deserved self-confidence we see today.
Listening to Dawn talk about her experiences becoming a great sailor at a young age, you quickly realize that she was raised in a large boating family and learned, literally at her father’s knees, aboard their Great Lakes Cutter of 36 feet, then of a “more racy” C&C 35, around Michigan. Dawn cut her teeth in blue waters at 13, sailing from Detroit to the Caribbean and back with her family, and earned her captain’s license at 15.
Oh, so there were some of those other “offshore jobs” like doing the Whitbread Round the World Race as a 26-year-old on Maiden, as documented in the excellent movie of the same name. Dawn was named skipper of Heineken in the Whitbread from 1993 to 1994 before she turned 30, which is recounted in her first book, Taking the Helm. – Full story