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Scuttlebutt News Center:

Youth Sailing - Sand Traps and Potholes

(July 20, 2005) No doubt, it was a tricky day to be running races. The wind was coming from an unlikely direction, and the races were for kids who had not yet reached their twelfth birthday. The top third of the fleet was pretty accomplished, but for the bottom third, many were racing for their very first time. There were coaches around the course, and parents on nearby docks to view an event that was a qualifier for a championship to be held the following week.

After watching a couple races, it became apparent how challenging the sport can be for young racers (even old racers) when the course conditions are not “right.” When one end of the start line was heavily favored, the kids at the opposite end were instantly playing catch-up. When the weather mark was reachable on one tack, those on the other tack were soon far behind. When marks were set near adjacent docks, obstructed wind and moored boats divided the fleet.

For the better kids, the skewed courses and tricky course locations likely provided an interesting puzzle to solve. When the start line couldn’t be reached on starboard, a coach was instructing his kids to set up above the line and dip down prior to the gun. When it was vital to be on port immediately after the start, the race winners figured out how to do it. However, for over half the fleet, the race conditions appeared to present more questions than answers.

At the end of the day, all the races were completed and the better kids qualified for the championship. The day also provided a good reminder that sailboat racing is hard enough on square lines and balanced courses without adding sand traps and potholes. Creating an even playing field improves the opportunity for all the kids to have good races, which hopefully helps build their confidence and enjoyment for the sport. – Craig Leweck

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