Kurnell Catamaran Club Youth Initiative

by Leanne Gould

Kurnell Catamaran Club is a small volunteer run Sydney club that are trying to increase the number of young people sailing at the club. On March 18 and 19 the Club hosted Youth Catamaran Regatta and training weekend, open to any young sailor, from any club, sailing any type of catamaran.

Club President Antony Edwards put the hard word on Olympian Darren Bundock to coach the kids. He then roped in club members and A class World Champion, Steve Brewin and Taipan National Champion, Andrew Williams to volunteer to train the kids. Harken and Boat Crew Gear came on board with sponsorship. Club racing was cancelled for the weekend and all the club members assisted running the event. Olympic coach Mike Fletcher turned up to privately coach one team but contributed his knowledge at the white board sessions.

The weekend weather was stormy with winds oscillating between 5 -20 knots. A mixed fleet of twelve boats came from across the state to attend the weekend of training and racing. Paper tigers, Taipans, Hobie 16, an A class and a group of Nacra 15s were all racing and training together. 

The focus was on skill development. Four world class coaches trained just twelve boats so the kids had one on one attention. There were five white board training sessions, a boat tuning session and three on the water training sessions over the weekend.

Saturday morning started with a briefing and white board session led by Darren Bundock. He discussed regatta preparation. He demonstrated and explained how to analysis weather information from a variety of sources and how it might affect the racing. With input from the other coaches the group discussed race starts and the plan for the day.

The teams then hit the water for an intensive morning of race start practice. The kids did almost twenty practice starts. Four coach boats were circling the kids giving them on water feedback and advice. Steve Brewin and Andrew Williams hopped onto several cats to adjust settings, demonstrate techniques and correct bad habits.

At lunch the debriefing on the morning activities had input from all four coaches on several issues with most of the fleet. The kids were given more advice on boat tuning, depowering in gusty conditions, boat handling techniques and start strategies.

After lunch all the coaches, young sailors, parents, and club members spent 30 minutes adjusting the settings and tuning all the cats.

The afternoon session was just as intense with three practice starts and three races held in quick succession. Coach boats were motoring very close to the kids advising on sail trim and technique. Again Stevie and Andrew grew impatient with the coach boats and just hopped onboard each catamaran taking over and showing the kids better techniques. Stevie took the helm of a Nacra 15 and set the pace for the race starts. The coaches encouraged the kids to be more assertive. The whole fleet responded with skill.

At dinner there was another debriefing and photos of the days training. This was a great time for the kids to socialize and make new friends but they all so tired they were almost falling asleep at the tables.

Sunday morning started early with Steve Brewin and Daren Bundock sailing before breakfast enjoying the morning breeze on their foiling As. This was an inspirational display for all the youth watching on the beach. All coaches were involved in the morning debrief and whiteboard training session.  On Sunday there were three practice starts, three training races and then three races with no coach interference.

So much information and skills were covered over such a short period of time. It is amazing how quickly these young minds soaked it up and dramatically improve. On Saturday morning the start line was chaos but by Sunday afternoon the competitors lined up with the skill and precision of an international fleet.

It was an awesome experience for the Kurnell CC volunteers who helped run the event. To sit in on world class coaching sessions and the watch the champions demonstrate techniques were invaluable. Some volunteers saying they learnt more in one weekend than they have learnt in a lifetime of racing.

The regatta created great training opportunities for the local Nacra 15 youth sailors preparing for the Australian Youth Multihull Championship April 14-17. The event was inspirational to the next level of young sailors and their parents.  These are families who sail at club level and have the older smaller boats. They had the opportunity to mix with elite athletes and had Olympic level coaches and they were inspired. Perhaps this is even more important for the future of the sport. Young Paper Tiger sailor Archie Gargett said “We had the opportunity to meet the most awesome sailors and they drove right up next to us and told us what we were doing wrong and how to fix it! We tried new stuff and it worked!”

The event was sponsored by from Harken and Boat Crew Gear. YA were involved and the champion sailors gave their time to support the youth. The Kurnell Catamaran Club did not just focus on their own sailors but opened the event to all kids that sail. This is a winning formula to get more kids sailing.

Kurnell Catamaran Club is entirely volunteer run. Their “Have a go” approach and hard work is creating opportunities to all young sailors. This small club is challenging the notion that egalitarianism and elitism in sailing are not mutually exclusive. Could this be a templar for the future of the sailing in Australia?

To enter the 2017 Australian Youth Nacra Championships and for more information CLICK HERE


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