Just Like Her Old Man
Just Like Her Old Man
What does it take to get a kid hooked on sailing? Lessons are a start, but it's friends and camaraderie that really set the hook. Gaining Bearing from our July/August 2011 issue.
I often get asked about my daughter Tory’s sailing prowess. Tory, now 14, is a completely normal kid, gets good grades, has a very proud mom and dad, and plays several sports. She loves drama and essentially taught herself sixth grade when she, and her mom, followed the 2008-’09 Volvo Ocean Race around the world.
And until recently, she hated sailing.
Now, hate is a pretty strong word. I don’t use it much, but in this case, it’s absolutely appropriate.
My family has a sailing tradition started by my grandfather (who himself never sailed): the grandfather buys the grandchild his or her first boat. I wanted to continue for this next generation of Reads, mainly because I was cheap and wanted my old man to pony up for an Opti for my kid. So, I reminded my father that Grampy bought me my first Sunfish and convinced him to carry on the tradition. Right around Christmas, when Tory was 7, a new Opti arrived.
Kathy, Tory, and I had spent a huge amount of time on the water through Tory’s early years, but we were typically on a Pearson True North 38 powerboat so sailing wasn’t exactly ground into her at a very young age. We thought she would come around to sailing, at her own pace; and that an Opti at her disposal would jumpstart things.
How wrong we were.
Tory’s first summer of sailing class at Sail Newport didn’t go well. In fact, there were days when our terror-filled little girl refused to step foot in the boat. She loved swimming in the pool, but the fear of flipping an Opti was more than she was good for. After two weeks of “sailing” class (more like sitting-on-the-dock class) we’d taken a huge step backwards as a sailing family. Let’s give it a year, we thought, she’ll come around.
It was about then that I really started to remember my own introduction to sailing—at about the same age. I did more sailing as a youngster than Tory, but the more I thought about it the more I realized we weren’t all that different.
The major difference is that I spent most of my summers on the family’s 30-foot Pearson Wanderer, cruising or racing around Narragansett Bay and Vineyard Sound. I don’t remember much of my pre-sailing-school years, other than holding on tight when the boat heeled and not really liking the sensation. We towed around Grampy’s Sunfish, and Dad and I played around on that. When he sat on the rail, it never seemed to heel, so that was fun. He let me off on my own one day in 3 knots of wind and it seemed pretty easy.
When I started sailing classes at Barrington (R.I.) YC, at age 8, however, I was terrified. The club used the dreaded Blue Jay for its beginner classes, and I came up with every excuse in the book to not sail. It was the same thing the following summer. Absolute terror. I claimed I was seasick. Hurt. I hid when class started. You name it, I pulled it off.
And just as mine did, Tory’s second year of sailing classes bombed. She didn’t have to go through an entire summer though, only two weeks of holy terror. We tried everything to get her hooked—to no avail. She wasn’t having it. We were officially raising a non-sailor.