Changing the game of Youth Sailing?

What does a program do after having unprecedented growth and participation the previous year?  We chose to greatly expand how our sailors' choices by adding a couple of foiling boats and expanding our keelboat program (after completely rehabbing our Santana 20s).  This makes our program about as fully rounded out as we can imagine.  From our continued empahsis on Learn to Sail classes, to small boat adventure sailing, to competitive and not so competitive racing support, to keelboat races and cruises to foiling.  Read on to learn more about our two new and exciting programs.

Coming February 2021 - The Nikki Foiling Craft

nikki underway

Ever since our founding in 2014 we have strived to provide a wide variety of sailing experiences for our young sailors.  We built a large fleet of centerboard Sabots as we became more and more convinced that these are the perfect boat for teaching first time sailors in Marina del Rey.  We expanded our fleet to include Optimists, Lasers, CFJs and a C420 so our students can learn, train and compete in the various SoCal events in these stalwarts of organized youth sailing.

We quickly found that the kids that love our adventure-based program sailed these traditional boats in ways that they aren’t sailed in other programs.  This expanded our thinking and resulted in our acquiring two Santana 20 keelboats, our six RS Teras and our RS Feva all of which have been a big success in keeping our sailors engaged and enthusiastic about their next adventure.  Three years ago we recognized foiling was here to stay and high speed sailing would be a big attraction to young sailors.

The best fit for our program at that time was the UFO, which is a small catamaran suitably manageable and simple enough for students that weighed less than 100lbs.  The obstacles that ultimately made us determine this was not suited for our program included the difficulty in hoisting the boats into the water, the fact each boat would require a full parking space in dry storage and the difficulty beating out the main channel would present in a small cat.

Recently we discovered the Nikki, which will be a game changer for our program.  It is a 9 1/2 foot, 60lb scow with detachable wings and convertible fins so it can be sailed by kids from 55 to 145lbs in either displacement or foiling modes.  At 3.3 feet wide (with the wings detached) they will be easy to store in dry store and will roll down our relatively narrow gangway.  In displacement mode kids will enjoy a lively sail as they develop a few key skills required to try foiling in our standard Open Sailing classes making it versatile enough for us to use regularly all year round.

In foiling mode, the foils are simply controlled by a single wand which determines the height the boat lifts out of the water.  Height above the water is gradually increased as a student gets more proficient while the scow hull reduces the consequences of “crashing” off a foil and greatly simplifies tacking and gybing.

From a program standpoint it is a great fit since our young kids can start sailing the boats early because of the low minimum weight, the simplicity of the foil control systems means fewer breakdowns, the fact the boats will function as two boats in one meaning they will be used regularly and its compactness greatly simplifies storage. 

Coming as soon as Covid restrictions allow - Our new, expanded Santana 20 Keelboat Program

We intend to hit the ground running with a broad based keelboat program immediately upon conditions related to the pandemic allow.  To do so we intend to upgrade and “equalize” our two Santana 20 keelboats so they are optimized for 4 youth sailor crews and function as identically as possible with some new electronic technology and modern rigging.  This will be achieved by having all deck, mast and boom hardware is equal and laid out in the same locations, equal sail inventories, GPS based navigation and speed instruments and consistency in the color coding and sizing of all control lines.  With this accomplished we plan on developing or expanding keelboat programs that include:

  • Tuesday Santana sailing and participation in Tuesday Night Races
  • Sunday Santana 20 Cruises
  • Match Racing
  • Buoy Racing maneuver classes.

To the extent safety and practical considerations allow, boats will be operated entirely by students during classes and races.

Why a Keelboat Program?

A keelboat program is a natural extension of our adventure based sailing program.  In fact, many, if not most, other youth programs use the label “Adventure Sailing” to describe youth sailing on keelboats.  Keelboat sailing expansion of our keelboat will bring a number of positives to the program and the design of the Santana 20 is an excellent vessel to introduce them.  Keelboat sailing will develop the following in our students:

  • Teamwork. Each crew member is important to the operation of the boats.
  • Communication. In order to work as a team, clear and concise communication is required
  • Navigation skills. Whether cruising from point to point or sailing from buoy to buoy, crews will need to use different types of tools from traditional paper charts to a GPS based instrument with compass heading, speed and a time and distance to a start line function.
  • A deeper understanding of sail and boat trim. Dinghies have limited ways to shape sails in order to control power. The Santanas have almost all of the tools needed to shape sails is a variety of ways to balance power with conditions. 

A vibrant keelboat program is an extension of providing out students with a wide range of sailing experiences as they develop into proficient, well-rounded sailors for life.