Yacht Racing’s Future in Good Hands

While some of the sailing world’s journalists spout doom and gloom about the future and find reasons to complain, others manage to seek out great stories that make you feel good about the sport. Thanks to Sail World for this story.

Probably one of the the youngest persons to take to the water at next week’s Audi Sydney Harbour regatta will be thirteen year old Mitchell Short.

Mitchell, who is the son of well known racing identity and businessman Andrew Short, will be onboard his Dad’s recently purchased Reichel Pugh 80 for the prestigious event. With disarming honesty he said that until recently he ‘didn’t have much of an idea’ about sailing.

All that changed after Mitchell completed a Tackers learn to sail program at Middle Harbour Yacht Club. After only a ten week course, he went on to win the green fleet (novices) at the recent Australian East Coast Optimist Championships. The feeling of being at the front of the pack proved addictive and Mitchell said that although he enjoys racing in his dinghy, he’s looking forward to the Audi regatta:

‘I really like the big boats too because they’re just fast.’

Mitchell is a young sailor likely to travel the well worn path from sailing lessons, to proud ownership of his first dinghy, then onto competitive dinghy racing, and finally keel boat racing as he gets older.

Another talented youngster looking forward to the Audi regatta has skipped one of these steps: Morgann Stanton had sailing lessons when she was seven, then lost interest and didn’t go near another boat until she was fourteen. As luck would have it, she was invited to a friend’s birthday party at a resort which happened to have a fleet of Hobie cats sitting on a nearby beach. Sailing the little catamaran rekindled her interest in the sport and now, just two years later, she’s the ‘bowman’ onboard the only all female crew in the competition: the Audi Sunshine Girls.

The Mooloolaba based SB3 is helmed by Qantas pilot and mother of two Lauren Calder and the Sunshine Girls are aiming for the World Championships in Portugal later this year.

Morgann said that learning to be a ‘bowy’ in the space of a single year had been a remarkably steep learning curve:

‘You don’t realize how easy they make it look when you are sitting on the shore. You think ‘I could do that. I could sit on the boat and pull some rope’ as my friend’s put it. And then you get out there and you come off the boat and you are aching- it’s the best feeling.’

But she added that the design of the SB3 made it comparatively easy for a novice to be preparing for World Championship racing after a mere two years.

‘(The SB3s) are like a cross-over between just about every class: they are like a dinghy crossed with a skiff, crossed with a keel boat. They are a great combination…they are very, very nice to sail.’

With the recognition that today’s happy kid in a dinghy likely to be one of the Audi regatta sailors of the future, we asked Mitchell and Morgann what were the best ways to get more young people interested in the sport.

Mitchell said it was all about building a peer group of friends in the sport and going fast:

‘Having fun on the water with other kids and having a competition against them and trying to beat them.’

Morgann replied that she wasn’t sure how to encourage more girls to sail but that she would recommend the sport purely on the basis of the people involved in it:

‘They’ve got to be the nicest, most open hearted people I’ve ever met. Everyone is just really nice and it’s really supporting, helpful and friendly. It’s probably got to be one of the best sports.’