Focus on the pleasure of sailing >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News
by Kevin Gunn
For the past ten years, I have been fortunate enough to coach the Ursuline Academy High School Sailing Team in New Orleans, LA. We are recognized as a varsity sport in the girls’ school and have a fairly busy training and regatta schedule throughout the school year.
As is the case with teams of any sport, the 25 or so members of the Ursulines sailing team form a fairly close bond. After all, they spend a lot of time together practicing all the skills that come with competing in a two-seater dinghy.
While they like to sail the 420 and occasionally the FJ during the long season, they especially enjoy the very end of the season when they venture into the non-traditional high school boats.
Our District Championship Regatta is usually held at the beginning of April and the school year ends at the end of May. We don’t cancel our training after we fail to qualify for Nationals; we just focus on the pleasure of sailing!
We provide the entire fleet of the New Orleans Yacht Club which includes a Viper, a Flying Scot and small keelboats. Catamaran enthusiast, I also offer you my Hobie Getaway. The team members enjoy sailing all the boats on offer, but the Hobie is by far their favorite. Here’s why :
They are fast and wet
There is no greater pleasure than seeing the excitement on a child’s face as they experience the speed of a beach cat. At the first wave, plug your ears because as the water splashes on the tramp, the children will start screaming for joy. For children who do not have access to high performance boats, a beach cat is the fastest sailboat they will sail. What kid wouldn’t want to sail fast?
They are easy to navigate and social
Compared to other sailboats of comparable performance, they are incredibly easy to rig and navigate. Children are continuously educated, whether in school, yacht club junior programs, high school sailing schools, etc. However, when they are sailing the Hobie I point out how the traveler works instead of having a downhaul, give some tips on how to turn and then let go.
Less rigging and instruction time ashore means more time sailing with their friends. Speaking of sailing with friends, rotomolded cats such as the Hobie Wave, Hobie Getaway, or RS Sailing cats have a lot more hull volume than cats of yore. They can sail with a surprising number of children on board.
From their point of view, the catamaran is a party boat compared to the crew of two they are used to sailing with. Thanks to the simplicity of navigation and the stable platform, kids can socialize in a way they couldn’t when focusing solely on keeping the boat upright and under control.
They are relatively stable
In addition to coaching a high school team, I also worked several summers at an overnight camp that has a fleet of Hobie Waves. On days when it blows at 20mph we could still let the kids with very little experience ride the waves. They can still capsize, but not at about the same rate as monohull dinghies.
The absence of an arrow also greatly reduces the risk of injury. As a beginner sailor instructor in windy weather, I have a lot less to worry about when kids are riding small rotomolded cats compared to any monohull dinghy. In short, novice sailors get the thrill of sailing fearlessly in windy weather.
They are durable and affordable
Aside from the fact that rotomolded hulls are more durable than fiberglass (I’ve never had to repair a rotomolded hull after a boat collision), catamarans also have a lot fewer parts, which means a lot less parts. to be replaced when they break.
No universal rubber joint on the bar extension, no fin seals to handle, no boom (or boom vang), etc. The sails also have a much longer lifespan than most monohull dinghies because catamaran sails have solid battens, which keep the sails from whipping like other sails.
If you buy new boats, under $ 7,000, a new Hobie Wave is significantly inferior to a new 420 and will certainly last longer.
Competing in a racing team gives its members a reason to come and train and continue their development as young sailors, so for that reason I am completely ready to train children interested in racing to become competitive sailors. However, if high school sailing, or junior sailing in general, moved its regattas towards small rotomolded catamarans, I would come aboard for all the reasons mentioned above.
As that probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future, let’s at least expose the next generation of sailors to the joys of catamaran sailing. It is sure to put a smile on a child’s face.
Editor’s Note: We echo Kevin’s sentiment, but expand it further so that the next generation of sailors are aware of all the options in the sport. As great as school sailing at the high school and college level offers, it’s a segment of the sport that ends with a diploma. The sooner young people find what they can enjoy in sport as adults, the more likely they are to stay in sport beyond the school years.
More photos of the Lycée des Ursulines sailing team: