By Jamie Jones, Zone Race Manager, Zone E
The idea is to create the next generation of racing officers
Everyone who races has seen it, especially in races for young sailors. There’s always a sailor crossing the finish line grumbling about how the “race committee screwed me up”. We had this situation a few years ago and we were like, ‘What better way to show young sailors that we haven’t intentionally spoiled them than to give them the management of races. If we teach them, they will begin to understand. Fast forward a few years and we have a group of young sailors running races and regattas in Columbus, Ohio.
The Hoover Sailing Club Youth Racing Team is one of the largest in our area with 40 kids on our summer racing team and another 75 in our spring and fall sailing program. Between the two groups we have a bunch of level 1, 2 or 3 instructors who work for our summer sailing school when they are not racing themselves. This is an important detail when we start talking about our teenagers racing in our motor boats. All of these US Sailing Certified Instructors have their NASBLA Boating Safety Certificates, not to mention hundreds of hours of safe power boat riding all summer long.
We therefore seek to offer adolescents the opportunity to participate in races in different ways:
1: Safety on the water is paramount. What better way to pilot a safety boat than with a certified level 1/2/3 instructor who has maneuvered his powerboats around the Optis / 420s all summer?
2: Since most of our young runners “expect” perfection when they run, they will therefore do their utmost to establish the fairest and most fun courses possible.
3: Many of our adult club members have little or no interaction with our youth programming. Getting young sailors into races is a great way to show off what you’ve built and give a little back to the members. This kind of public relations goes a long way.
So how do you get started?
It all starts with running a Youth Race Management course for your racing team. We are fortunate to have club and regional racing officers in our area who like to pay it forward and most other areas as well. Many clubs hold a “race committee meeting” at the start of the season, so invite your youth team (and their parents / coaches) to attend. Identify the children who are interested (or you, as a coach, can volunteer them). Pair them with a mentor race manager and encourage them to help you with your club events / races. When I have an apprentice race officer with me on the signal boat, I do the first race, they race the second with my help, then they race the third and the following ones with very little help from me. It’s a great way for them to gain the confidence to make those tough racing decisions. Sitting in the back of the signage boat and listening to them discuss and make decisions is worth the price of admission!
Take the next step
Once they’re ready for the next step, we start their real regatta management experience with a small event, like our “Friday Night Lights”. In our club, we started a “Friday Night Lights” series with our Opti team this season since the arrival of COVID and there was no travel allowed. Our junior RC ran these races with no interaction with the adults (we were on the ground watching the race!). Contact a fleet from your club and offer to help you organize fleet training days. A few years ago we paired our Junior RC with our local Interlake fleet to host a one day event on Saturday. All the juniors in the powerboats, the juniors on the signal boat, the adults in the sailboats equate to tons of fun on the water.
Since it is quite easy to get started, developing a youth race committee allows kids to have a lot of fun while learning valuable skills and it allows some members of your normal race committee to get on with it. water and join their friends in navigation! There is also a bonus. Teaching the next generation of racing officials not only teaches appreciation for what the job entails, but will go a long way in serving our sport in the future!