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sailhog 11-06-2007 09:32 AM

The old men and women of the sea...
Two weekends ago I crewed in my first race on a friend's J-24. Didn't do so well, but it was also my first introduction to the sailing/racing set on HHI, and it was an eye-opener. The race included a half-dozen Harbor 20s, which are beautiful little one-design boats with self-tailing jibs, enormous cockpits, and battery powered motors. They also cost around $30,000. We were in the midst of some powerful spring tides, so at the end of the race, all of the H-20s had to be towed back to Windmill Harbour, as the tide was on the way out and their batteries had all expired. They all lined up, stem to stern, and all six were slowly towed behind a single Whaler. They all appeared to be crewed and skippered by people in their sixties and seventies, and as they headed home their silver heads stood over the cockpit coamings. It was an amusing sight: six sailboats being towed, a total of $180,000 dollars in pretty little watercraft. Anyway, it got my friends and myself to thinking. Ten years ago this race would have sixty boats instead of thirty, my J-24 friend explained. "You're in love with a dying sport," he said. My reply was, "I'm fine with that."
And I am -- but only to a point. I really don't care that North Americans don't want to sail, as it's my view that sailing requires that you devote a certain high level of time and energy to it, or else you end up in a world of regret. The pity in it all is that so few people actually get to experience this. Most of the people on this forum know what they'd be missing if they didn't sail, and my guess is that you'd all turn into a bunch of roaring alcoholics if you couldn't do it. I'm not evangelical about sailing, but I've had my boat for exactly a year, and I've taken just over 90 people out on my little C30 (90 different people). Most live on HHI, and it was their first sailing experience for nearly all of them. At the end of nearly every sail, they can't wait to go again. They love it. We get calls all the time to see if we're going out on the boat, and I do my best to cancel whatever I'm supposed to be doing in order to reprise the experience.
I apologize for the long thread, but this idea that we are all in love with such an all-consuming but dying way of life is incredible to me. We Americans are a stupid and lazy bunch who would rather watch Nascar, so I really shouldn't care at all... The reason I posted this is to get other views on the topic. CD touched on the subject in his thread concerning all the sh---y boats out there on the market, which, in my opinion, only confirms what we all know deep down to be the case. Thoughts?

AjariBonten 11-06-2007 09:42 AM

I couldn't agree more .....
But it's not just sailing!

Pick any "old art" that leads to any sort of self sufficiency. The sad fact is, much of our skill base and brain exercise is being co-opted by technology.

Ask yourself; how many phone numbers can you remember off the top of your head, and how many do you ask your cell phone to remember for you? (I'm particularly guilty of this one!)

I read somewhere that 100 years ago it was possible for a single individual to have a working understanding of the entire range of human knowledge. Tnat is simply not possible now.

As a species we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction. Now, I am no luddite. I embrace technology as much as the next fellow. However, I try to be conscious when I make a decision to abdicate a responsibility to a technological fix; and I make a concerted effort to retain the skill and knowledge base to do it myself.

Navigation for example. I LOVE GPS AND RADAR! However, I practice the old arts, and will make damn sure to fully learn celestial navigation when I begin long term cruising.

I don't HAVE to heat my home with wood; but I'm damn sure gonna be ABLE to!

And so on..... And so on......:cool:

Giulietta 11-06-2007 09:47 AM

Actually Hog, in my Country its the opposite, more people sailing now then ever.

The sailing club where my son races has a waiting list of at least 30 kids.

Most clubs have the teams full, and the amount of older people getting into sailing increased by almost 120% since last year.

We have a problem now..not enough boats for the kids to start.

I know a guy that drives evry Saturday and every sunday, 100 miles each way, so his son can sail in an Opti.

sailingdog 11-06-2007 10:00 AM

There's a vast difference between the US and Portugal in many things. Family is still important in Portugal, and the youth there haven't been overwhelmed by the technology available to them. In some ways I feel very sorry for kids growing up today...yes, they have high-speed internet, fast computers, X-Box, Playstation III, cell phones with IM and internet capabilities, but they seem to be missing out on so much of what I had when I was their age. Hiking, camping, sailing, canoeing, fishing, and most of the other outdoor recreation, aside from the highly regimented after school sports, all seem to be missing from their lives. When was the last time you saw a bunch of kids playing a pickup game of kickball or soccer. Around here, I haven't seen anything like that in a long time. When I was growing up, it happened almost weekly.

Most of the marinas around here have racing programs, but most aren't targeted towards supporting young sailors. It is pretty hard to get into sailing if you don't have anyone around you that does sail. Boats are expensive, yatch clubs memberships are expensive, and I know a lot of teens that would love to learn to sail, if they just had an opportunity to do so.

Part of the problem is that sailing isn't seen as an accessible sport for many, mostly due to the expense of the sport. I find that to be somewhat a cop-out.... look at golf and skiing.. both are pretty expensive sports, and a good set of golf clubs or skis probably goes for what a small car-toppable dinghy would.

I've donated my time and money to several programs that do cater to young sailors... but they're pretty far and few between, even up here in New England, where sailing is more of a tradition than it is in other parts of the US.

TrueBlue 11-06-2007 10:06 AM

The impressionistic painting sailhog illustrated depicting sailing as an old geezer's club, may be his localized and narrowly focused vision. In the waters in and around Newport Harbor, this can't be any further from truth.

On any summer day, even thoughout the winter with frostbite series, scores of youthful sailors can be spotted gaining sailing experience through youth programs with Sail Newport and local Yacht Clubs. The many regattas on the Bay and Harbor have actually become navigational hazards to other boaters.

Sail Newport alone has youth programs starting with little guppies:

and 7-15 age groups sailing their 8 foot prams, like Optis:

11-17 year olds in Hunter 140s

all ages and skill levels in Windsurfers

11-18 year olds in their Lasers and C420s

and the 12-17 year olds in their J22s

It's by no means a dying sport around here.

sailingdog 11-06-2007 10:12 AM


Newport is a bit of an exception, since it really is a mecca in the US for sailing. I am willing to bet outside of Marblehead, Newport, Annapolis and couple of other places, finding large youth programs that cover the range that you show in your post is really rare.

Waterrat 11-06-2007 10:20 AM

I am a teacher and I have noticed an ever increaseing number of people looking for instant satisfaction. If they can't get it now why bother. Sometimes it appears that parents let their chidren get raised by televeisons and vidieo games and I definetly do not want our media setting the standards for our youth. This is exactly what is happening. What do most american families do when they get home? They turn on the televison and veg out. Where will this lead our society? The loss of interest in sailing is just one of the many outcomes of this technalogical age. I am not against technology because it is a wonderful tool but like every powerful tool it can be used for the good or the bad.

I say throw away your televison and vidieo games and take your children to the wilds.

camaraderie 11-06-2007 10:22 AM

While a few years old, the enclosed linked boating survey indicates that there are about 10 million sailors in the USA..about 1/2 in small boats and the rest in aux powered boats. Average days on the water is 25 for aux and 10 for small boats.

Waterrat 11-06-2007 10:29 AM


That is what I like to see. Kids having fun learning new skills and hanging outside. :D

TrueBlue 11-06-2007 10:34 AM

If sailing popularity is declining in areas where it once thrived, I don't believe the main reason is money. Fees for many of the youth programs I stated are certainly not free, but most are affordable. The boats are provided by the instruction facility and parent provided equipment, like pfds, is inexpensive.

This has less to do with ". . . high-speed internet, fast computers, X-Box, Playstation III, cell phones with IM and internet capabilities" but more related to a lack of motivational interest from the parents. If the parents encouraged their kids to participate in sailing, more youth sailing programs would either remain through public support, or it would become a stimulus for new program start-ups.

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