It's early summer and big races are taking place all over the country. Out West the biennial Transpac is grabbing headlines with a strong core of offshore racers making their way out to the Hawaiian Islands. In the Northeast, the annual Block Island Race Week is session, with 214 boats going head to head. And in the Midwest, Cleveland Race Week is among the many events populating the calendar with over 160 boats participating. Given all that activity, it's easy to see how we might overlook a less vaunted but no less important regatta staged during the same time framethe 2001 USA Junior National Olympic Sailing Championship.
If you can get beyond that mouthful of a title, you'll begin to understand how this five-class regatta with roughly 160 entrants (staged this year at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD), holds a special statusboth for its participants and competitive sailors everywhere. Through an application-invitation screening process, the event's administrators at US SAILING gather the top junior racing talent in the USsailors ranging in age from 13 to 19and offer them not only four days of on-the-water competition, but also exposure to the top Olympic and junior coaches by way of a two-day advanced racing clinic. These young sailors not only get a chance to interact with top coaching talent and their peers, but they get ready-made counseling regarding opportunities within the sport from potential Olympic participation to what it might be like to join the sailing industry.
One chief objective behind the JO Nationals (as the young competitors refer to the event) is to get more sailors interested in pursuing Olympic competition. US SAILING's Inshore Director Lee Parks explains: "It used to be called the US Youth Champs, and then we entered into an agreement with the Olympic Committee roughly six years ago to make this a key part of their Olympic Path Program. It's essentially an opportunity for young sailors to determine their next step in the sport, and hopefully that means that some of them are going to commit to an Olympic campaign."
This event, says Parks, "has always represented the best 150 or so youth sailors in the country
It has no regional quotas, all the selections are made by reviewing the resumes. We typically get 300 resumes from kids around the country. You may receive one from Nebraska and 50 from California, as opposed to the Sears, Bemis, and Smythe events, which are conducted more equitably on a regional basis
.Basically we are trying to pull together the best high school and early college sailors in the country."