The 10-year-old on the opposite page, intent on his job of reconciling a willful spinnaker, a choppy sea and a gusty breeze, is no unique phenomenon. Each summer an estimated 35,000 youngsters hand and steer their boats with the cool competence of young Columbuses on the rivers, bays, lakes and inlets of the U.S. Using a special color-photography process reminiscent of the French Impressionists, Photographer Stephen Michael has captured on the following pages much of the natural grace, the eagerness and the enthusiasm of young sailors as they pursue their age-old sport at the annual race week off Long Island Sound's Larchmont Yacht Club, where each year hundreds of youngsters and adults alike join in one of the East Coast's biggest regattas. But not even Michael's pictures can suggest the long days of careful planning, the worrying and the fretting, and the hours of dedicated adult sacrifice that go into the making of these young able seamen, for it is not by accident that they know how to handle themselves in a boat. Most of the juniors who sailed in the Larchmont regatta, like most of those sailing throughout the country, learn well under competent supervision in a Junior Sailing Program at some yacht club. On pages 35-38 a noted yachting authority and member of the North American Yacht Racing Union's junior sailing committee discusses some of the problems involved in organizing and operating such a program.
ORGANIZING A JUNIOR SAILING PROGRAM
There are, in all likelihood, as many ways to teach a child how to sail as there are children to learn, adults to demonstrate and boats for them to sail in. Today, however, the commonest method is to gather the would-be sailors into a group under the sponsorship of a local yacht club and to launch them all together under the command of some salty young collegian eager to put his love for sailing and his need for cash to good use in the summer months. This arrangement—generally known as the Junior Sailing Program—can be seen running its often erratic but generally rewarding course through storm and calm from the Fourth of July to Labor Day at more and more of the nation's yacht clubs each year.
The notion of hiring college boys to teach the local youngsters to sail is not new. It began to take hold at yacht clubs some time after World War 1, but its purpose was then largely just to bring the kids up properly in the sport their fathers loved. With the huge growth in boating of all kinds since World War II, the junior program has taken on added importance and added significance. Now many parents with no previous inclination of their own toward the water seek membership in a yacht club just so their children can benefit from the program. The child's skill and enthusiasm in turn often prompt the parent to buy a boat and learn to sail it. Moreover, the sound seamanship learned by youngsters in junior programs has become a vitally important factor in keeping the nation's waterways safe for adults.
CAMPERS OR SAILORS
Depending on the size of the yacht club concerned, the junior program can include as few as a dozen youngsters or as many as 150, ranging in age from 9 to 16 years. Their differing skills and enthusiasms for the sea may run the gamut from the innate ability of a born Bus Mosbacher to the sluggish indifference of a land tortoise.
Inevitably, an uncomfortable handful of these apprentices will have been shanghaied into the program because their mothers saw in it a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to get the children out of the house. A day camp or a baby-sitting service, however, may produce good campers or good babies, but it won't produce good sailors. Our first word of advice, therefore, to all who would institute a Junior Sailing Program, is to make its purpose clear from the start.
Once that purpose—the teaching of the skills involved and the enjoyment to be had in sailing—is firmly established, four factors become necessary to bring it to fruition. The first of these is a selfless and self-reliant junior-activities chairman able and enthusiastic enough to run the whole show.
SKIPPER AND MATE
The cynic who once defined a camel as "a horse designed by a committee" would find himself thoroughly at home in a yacht club where junior activity is supervised by a committee of the board of governors or some such unwieldy authority. Like a ship in the midst of the sea, a junior program in the midst of the complexity of yacht-club activity can sail a fair course only if responsibility for it is put solely in the hands of a single adult authority.
The duties are anything but easy. As the man in charge of keeping the ship afloat, the junior chairman must first of all be able to locate and sign on an adequate crew of junior instructors—or counselors, as some of them prefer to be called—and then defend them against the sniping of club officers, bachelor yachtsmen, prejudiced parents and all the other self-appointed critics on the club docks.
He must be selfless but not spineless. He must be able to fight for his budget and answer questions and complaints; as a philosopher he must act as buffer and catalyst to parents, children and instructors; as an unpaid volunteer he must devote every evening and many of his days to supervising the equilibrium of the program. As middleman with ultimate responsibility he will get all of the blame and none of the credit. With luck, he may be able to get other parents to help him do the dirty work, but if they fail it will be up to him.
In late fall or early winter the junior chairman must set out to hire the head instructor—the second most important item in any program.
The ideal for the job of instructor is a young man, proficient enough in sailing to have earned a reputation that will increase his authority; enthusiastic enough to instill his enthusiasm into others; lucid, articulate and imaginative enough to make a complex art intelligible; hard enough to maintain good discipline; soft enough to be liked; and tactful enough to deal with parents smoothly and to their satisfaction. The junior instructor should also have sufficient manual dexterity and experience to make minor repairs on boats, docks and bicycles. If no applicant happens to turn up possessing all these traits, no matter. There will be many who will possess some of them to some degree, and with the full backing and help of the junior chairman, at least one applicant should be able to make up in effort what he lacks in skill.
MASTS AND SAILS
The next most important ingredient in a Junior Sailing Program is a fleet of sailboats.
More often than not, the choice will be dictated by circumstance. One such circumstance will be the prevailing preference among the adults at the yacht club sponsoring the program. If they all own Lightnings, chances are they will not welcome buying an extra Blue Jay just so Junior can sail it. Another circumstance may be the choice already made by another club. There is no point, for instance, in putting your class in Comets if all the other clubs are racing in Windmills or Penguins.
In general, the choice of a trainer can be reduced to two types of rig: the sloop and the catboat, i.e., jib and mainsail, or mainsail alone. The advocates of the single-sail rig insist that a beginner's boat should be rigged as simply as possible to give him confidence and immediate control, from which he can grow naturally into the more complex jib-and-main-sail sloop rig.
The sloop-rig advocates claim that starting in the slightly more complex rig will give the beginner an early introduction to the kind of sailing he will meet later in larger boats.
Of the hundreds of class boats of both types that exist today, there are several score that can serve adequately for trainers. The table at the right lists an arbitrary 25 of the most likely, with some of their qualifications, but it necessarily omits many fine designs.
Some horny-handed young instructors believe that a boat is all they need to teach with. One such single-minded shellback insists on putting his youngsters in boats every single day come hail or high water, and if the wind is too strong for a little class boat he borrows a seaworthy windjammer from one of the senior members and takes the whole class out under reefed canvas to show them how to cope with a squall at first hand.
Sailing, however, is a science as well as an art, and many less ruggedly inclined instructors will agree that the fourth vital ingredient for a fully found Junior Sailing Program is a well-equipped shore establishment. A comfortable, functional classroom that can double as a junior clubroom is important not only for teaching but for youthful morale. It should include a well-stocked library of sailing books, pamphlets, magazines and illustrations, and a large blackboard for chalk-talks and the diagrams necessary to all racing protests. It should also include a scientifically designed teaching model to illustrate the mechanics of the sailing art.
A classic example of the teaching model is the one shown on the preceding page, developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, birthplace of the Tech dinghy, one of the best of the trainers.
Knot boards, lines for tying, a stubby mast with halyards rigged on it and other gadgets that may assist the instructor in clarifying his special science all help to amplify on shore the interest already sparked at sea.
The fundamentals, however, must be learned in the boat, and for most beginners the first sail is a moment of high drama. If he is to get his program off on the right foot, the instructor should do his best to accomplish the introduction of sailor to sailboat with all the casual confidence he can muster. As soon as possible on the first day of the program, with a brief commentary on what he is doing, he rigs the boat, hoists the sail and invites two children aboard. At this point the timid child may shrink to the rear of the class and even complain of a headache. As it will take some time to make the circuit with all of the students, the shy one should be left to watch and perhaps overcome his fears. If when his turn finally comes he can be cajoled into the boat rather than goaded, he may be cured for good (unless his mother is allowed to stand by, smothering him with more of the overprotective maternal solicitude that has made the poor child timid to begin with).
Three days later, along with the rest of the class, even the bashful beginner should be ready to hold the tiller while his instructor mans the mainsheet. By the end of the week he should be sailing the boat.
The first races should be match races so the instructor can separate the abler students from the slow ones and make more equal pairings. The majority of youngsters cannot judge speed unless they are close to another boat. In match racing the good student won't always win and the bad one won't always lose.
Since most youngsters do not thrive under constant competitive pressure, however, some part of each day should be spent in games. Most sailing games employ the basics of good racing, lacking only the starting gun and the finish line. The easiest game is follow the leader, with the instructor being the first leader. Treasure hunts, scavenger hunts and obstacle races can combine sailing with land games. Sponge tag is perhaps the most exciting and popular game in the beginning class. A large wet sponge is tossed from boat to boat to make the tag; this involves a good deal of horseplay, but it also requires some skilled boat handling.
ONWARD AND UPWARD
As the sailors grow older and their skills improve, both the games and the serious sailing become more complex. Sponge tag will give way to trick competitions, like sailing a boat backward or maneuvering without a rudder. The simple tactics of match racing will be supplanted by the far more complex strategies of team racing.
In general, the class will be divided according to skill and age into three groups: beginners (ages 9 through 11), intermediates (ages 12 through 14) and the advanced class (15 and up). Since advancement through these groups is necessarily a long-term proposition, the instructor should set up a system of ratings by which a student can measure his day-today progress within each group. A commonly accepted ladder of ratings is shown at the right. A chart recording each young sailor's progress up the scale by the use of gold stars, chevrons or some other device goes a long way in sustaining the competitive spirit and providing a sense of accomplishment beyond the winning of races. Posting the master chart in a central area keeps the seniors aware of progress.
One certain key to a successful junior program is adult approval rather than mere sufferance. When the relationship of parents and children is as happily admitted on the yacht-club floats as it is at home, when the program is accepted as an integral part of the yacht-club activity, when juniors and seniors learn to sail, as they must learn to live, together, the yacht club will have not only a successful Junior Sailing Program but, what is more important, a future.
READY FOR FAIR WEATHER OR FOUL, ONE DIMINUTIVE CREWMAN AT LARCHMONT MANS MAINSHEET, ANOTHER GETS SPINNAKER TO DRAW
A YOUNG SAILOR PERFORMS A GRACEFUL THOUGH UNINTENTIONAL SCARF DANCE AS SHE SPREADS HER SAIL OUT TO DRY IN THE SUN
WET BUT WISER, A GROUP OF YOUNG SAILORS HEADS HOME AFTER ONE DAY'S RACING TO REST UP FOR STILL ANOTHER
With an ordinary electric fan serving as the wind, this sailing instructor perfected by MIT can mimic the actions of a real boat in all points of sailing. Gimbals fore and aft allow the hull to heel, while an elastic band lends waterlike resistance to the centerboard. Boat will tack or jibe under mainsheet. Labels identify parts of hull and sails, the points of sailing.
IN THE WIND
The Blue Jay (shown at left) is perhaps the most satisfactory solution to the requirements for an all-round trainer. Sloop-rigged, with a 70-square-foot spinnaker, the Jay has all the sailing characteristics of big boats. Designer Olin Stephens of Sparkman and Stephens gave the Jay stability with no sacrifice of speed or ease of handling by means of a V bottom and a hard chine. The wide beam gives ample room in the cockpit for three juniors (or several adults on a picnic). The Jay takes kindly to every condition of wind and water and, with a modest price of $1,200 complete or $385 in kit form, it is popular everywhere in the U.S. Strictly one-design, Jay competition is an honest appraisal of skipper and crew. "You can grow up in a Jay—and you never outgrow it," says one enthusiastic Jay owner and racer. Other trainers, like those listed below, have other advantages—lower price, greater speed, simpler rig, or simply local preference, so that anyone of them may serve as well as the Jay, both for teaching the young to sail and sustaining them in competition.
RISING SCALE OF SEAMANSHIP
The basic ratings—seaman, mate and skipper—cover roughly the first, second and third training periods and are intended to indicate proficiency in the skills taught in each of those years. As a measure of progress within the rating, some sort of subdivision is recommended. On the way to rating as a seaman, for instance, beginners can climb a fishy scale from guppy to whale. Below are listed skills each student should acquire to earn his rank.
Requirements for rating of seaman
figure eight knot
two half hitches
heaving a line
belaying a line
whipping and serving
BASIC NAUTICAL TERMINOLOGY
hauling, dumping, launching
bending and setting
care of sails
MOORING AND DOCKING
shooting, picking up and casting off a mooring
handling the anchor
handling the tow line
NEATNESS AND DEPORTMENT
Requirements for rating of mate
bowline on a bight
use of palm and needle
KNOWLEDGE OF RIGS
NAVIGATION AND PILOTAGE
identification of buoys
chart reading, compass lore
trim of sails on all points of sailing
racing rules 29-32, Y.R.A.L.I.S.
purpose and spirit of the rules
sailing into landing at dock, float or laying alongside another boat
Requirements for rating of skipper
boarding and leaving
use of code flags
use of barometer
use of weather map
reading the sea and sky
care of wounds
care of burns, including sunburn