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Youth getting hands on offshore equipment training on Dave Irish’s No Surprise.

It's not so much thinking out of the box; it's realizing that we built the box and that we must climb out of it. That's the scenario with introducing young people to keelboat sailing.

The growth of organized youth sailing in the USA has kept the focus on small age-based dinghies, with attempts to introduce alternatives often halted by fears of getting left behind. While participation in youth-type dinghies has seen tremendous growth, it has come at the expense of everything else.

Prior to building the structure of youth sailing, young people had freer reign at all the types of boat that were in their harbor. But now, once young people age-out of youth sailing, they are less likely to have experienced these alternatives, and certainly less skilled once they do.

Keelboat sailing is one of the logical entrées on the adult menu, particularly since it can cost nothing. With the 20-somethings now off the 'parental dole' and on their own, the 'cost nothing' is a price they can afford.

But keelboat racing requires skills that go beyond reading the course chart and trimming the sails. It requires seamanship... the kind of stuff kids once picked up as kids. In the absence of organic learning, a solution has been the Storm Trysail Foundation's Junior Safety-At-Sea seminars.

The Little Traverse Yacht Club (Harbor Springs, MI) hosted Storm Trysail Club’s and Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation's first Junior Safety at Sea Seminar last month. It was the first Junior Safety at Sea program held on the Great Lakes. Irish Boat Shop offered its classroom, docks, and treated the juniors and coaches to breakfast, snacks, lunch and post seminar pizza.

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 Young sailors discover necessary skill to ascend into a life raft from the water at the LMSRF Junior Safety at Sea seminar.   Designated “Survivor of the Storm” at the LMSRF Junior Safety at Sea seminar at LMSRF Member Club Little Traverse Yacht Club.

Fourteen members of the Little Traverse racing team attended the seminar. Their head coach, Dan Thompson, worked with Storm Trysail moderator Rich du Moulin to organize the agenda and required equipment. Morning activities included Rich's presentation of Carina's 2011-2012 circumnavigation, a session on Heavy Weather Preparations, the viewing of the Storm Trysail Club’s Man Overboard movie, and dockside drills on Dave Irish's J/111, No Surprise.

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Carter Williams’ Creative Destruction on the way out to Little Traverse Bay for hands on safety training for youth.   

After lunch the juniors went sailing in the J/111 and Carter Williams’ J/105, Creative Destruction. After three hours of upwind QuickStops and downwind QuickStops, the final evolution was a Lifesling recovery with a swimmer. The final hour ashore included discussions of Abandon Ship in case of severe flooding or fire, and live, in-water demonstrations with an inflatable liferaft (courtesy of Carter Williams) and PFDs.

pic 1Happy survivor in the life raft at the first-ever Junior Safety at Sea program on the Great Lakes.

Everyone had a great time, the hospitality was over the top, and planning is underway for 2018.

Source: Scuttlebutt, Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation, All Photos by Rich du Moulin