Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand newsletter for 15 February 2012
The Harken International Youth Championship has been won by one of New Zealand's up and coming sailors, Chris Steele together with crew Stewart Dodson, Rawiri Geddes and Jay Presst .
A former world Optimist champion, and in fact the only New Zealander to have won what is arguably the hardest of all the world championships, Steele looks to have finally made the transition to crewed boats, and his future career will be followed with great interest.
Chris Steele was from a non-sailing family, and was first introduced to the sport through a Waterwise program run at his his local club, and which puts through some 600 children a year through a series of six sailing and water safety confidence lessons.
At one stage about four years ago, of three junior world champions in New Zealand, two of those had come from then non-sailing families, and both had come into the sport through Waterwise programs (the other at French Bay).
There has been a big shift in New Zealand sailing over the past four or five decades, when most of our sailors were from sailing families, or picked up the sport when encouraged/required as crew by their mates for two or more-handers. Now about 50% of the sailors in the sport come from outside it - from non-sailing families - and club programs need to recognise this shift.
Chris Steele (RNZYS) and crew after rounding the top mark - Harken Youth International Match Racing Championships Sara Tucker
Programs such as Waterwise and others are effectively a way of franchising the recruitment for the sport, and are an excellent way of doing a lot more than club learn to sail programs can do themselves. Sure they don't have the conversion rates that some would like in percentage terms. But the reality is that if a Waterwise program pumps through 600 youngsters a year and points just 10% of that number (60 wannabe sailors), in the direction of a sailing club learn to sail program, and if just half that number (30 taught sailors) come out and are ready to sail in Optimist Green fleets, or a two handed boat, then that is often more than most clubs could cope with per season.
The other recruitment issue is that there is not really a good two-handed junior boat available in significant numbers with a good second hand market - where parents can pick up a boat (or kids could get a job and earn the money to buy one) that costs about the same as a bike.
That's all got a long way away from Chris Steele and his win in the Harken International Youth Series. But follow his progress and you can see some interesting footprints, and insights as to how we can grow the sport.
Don't forget too, the other half of the Chris Steele equation - the RNZYS Lion Foundation Youth Training Program which does an outstanding job of taking good young sailors and good young crews, and turns them into great sailors over a period of a couple of years. The program is recruiting now. Click here to find out more.
In this edition we have a profile of Adam Minoprio, who tops the list of graduates from the Lion Foundation program. He's already a world match racing champion, winner of the New Zealand Sailor of the Year, and is now finding out what trans-oceanic racing is all about, as part of the crew aboard Camper in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Younh Chris Dickson made his entry to the America's Cup in Fremantle, where Dennis Conner had his finest hour - 25th Anniversary of the 1987 America's Cup win Kos Picture Source
But the point remains that for the Chris Steele's and Adam Miniprio's to reach the peaks of the sport of sailing - they have to be enticed into the sport in he first place, and this is why Waterwise, Club Learn to Sail, Sailing have a Go and other such programs play such a vital, but very unheralded, part in our sport.
It is real easy to criticise these programs for some shortcoming - but real hard to make them work properly - to be the best they can be, and to produce the sailors and champions of the future.
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