Now that most kids are free from the regimen of their school schedules, Optis, Capri 14s, sabots and Lasers are filling the main channel in Marina del Rey as the youth sailing programs are now firing on all cylinders.
The three main outlets that provide youth education in sailing instruction and boating safety — California Yacht Club (CYC), Del Rey Yacht Club (DRYC) and UCLA Marina Aquatic Center — are all up and running.
The yacht clubs have already begun their first session, but soon spots will be available for the second session, which begins this month. The California Yacht Club’s second installment begins Monday, July 21st, and Del Rey’s on Wednesday, July 23rd.
And while the yacht clubs get much of the attention when it comes to these programs — and deservedly so, for both courses are highly reputable, with many young sailors being trained to high levels of proficiency — there is another youth program on the other side of the harbor that is also a solid learning precinct, UCLA’s Marina Aquatic Center.
All three programs strive for essentially the same basic end goals — to instill safety and skills while having fun on the water. It’s speculated that CYC stresses a more race-oriented approach when pitted against DRYC, although some talented racers have come through the Del Rey ranks, to be sure. Over at Marina Aquatic Center, the focus is more about safety with less emphasis on competition.
“We teach the basics of sailing and safety on the water,” said Erinn McMahan, director of Marina Aquatic Center. “We are a grantee of Cal Boating [California Department of Boating and Waterways] so we definitely have a water safety component in there — rules of the road, safety, navigation, but the kids that continue do get to learn some racing skills.”
The two yacht clubs run two sessions per summer of about three or four weeks each, while Marina Aquatic Center runs a five-day “camp adventure sailing” program where kids attend from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. These camps are flexible in that they can be for just one week or a child can attend all nine sessions.
All three programs teach the young sailors the rudimentary first steps and if aptitude rears its head, will nurture the talent.
“They start from the very basic stuff,” said DRYC head coach Scott Decurtis. “What the hull is, what the rudder is, what the mast is, the sail — and hopefully by the end of the beginning course, they’re able to sail upwind, downwind, do drills and maneuvers.
“There are some kids that it’s more like a summer camp for, but there are some that pop out to us that really enjoy it, catch on very fast and build skills quickly. Those are the kids that we pull off to the side and try to let them know the true potential of the sport and get them sailing year-round to develop into our race team kids.
“So we do have more of a camp style, but then again, we also have a racing portion to our program.”
Decurtis, McMahan and Cal Yacht Club’s junior director Carrie Dair all agree that nurturing the young mariners and not pushing too hard is at the heart of passing on the sailing experience and seeing a positive return.
“The staff is really important,” said Dair in a past interview. “If you have a high level competitive coach to drill on the kids, most of the time they’re not going to like it and then they won’t want to come back. [The kids] have to like the sport, not just bring home a trophy.”
At the Aquatics Center the entry level age is 11, but at the yacht clubs the kids begin as young as eight. Both Dair and Decurtis are mindful of bringing the kids along slowly.
“The kids have never even thought about a sailboat before,” says Decurtis. “It’s a totally new concept. Some kids get a little nervous, but once they realize how easy, fun and simple it is, things go along fine.”
For more information about these sailing programs, www.dryc .org/, www.calyachtclub.org/ or http://marinaaquaticcenter.org/.