McKee Minute: I'm With the Kid

Onboard Bora Gulari's Air Force 1 at the Melges 24 Worlds in Miami, they've got secret weapon in young Kyle Navin.

Melges 24 Worlds

Pierrick Contin

He's light, fast, and smart and has one thing Jonathan McKee does not: fewer laps around the sun. But Air Force 1 is benefiting from its cross-generational composition, says McKee.Pierrick Contin

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I am getting to be on the older side when it comes to high-level racing. One of the things I love is to sail with younger people (which is pretty much everyone) but especially really younger people. At this regatta we have 14-year-old Kyle Navin sailing with our team. He comes from a sailing family in Wisconsin, but he has become an accomplished sailor himself. But sailing in a world championship with Bora Gulari is something else altogether!

Kyle is pretty chill, though. He does not act intimidated or scared, he’s just himself, and when I ask him about the wind or how we can improve our spinnaker drops, he’s ready with a good answer. Sure, he has a lot to learn. His mentor Buddy Melges, when he learned Kyle was sailing with us, suggested that he start a notebook with the things he learned each day.

But the funny thing is, us old guys learn from Kyle, too, and we feed off his enthusiasm and energy. I really think this is one of the keys to our sport; the cross-generational blending of experience and passion that benefits everyone. How many sports can say that? In what other sport can a top junior compete realistically for the world championship? I can’t think of any.   The first time I won the Melges 24 Worlds, in 2005, I had a similar scenario. We had a good team fronted by James Spithill, but our weights did not quite work out. So we asked the locals in Florida if there was a good junior who weighed about 90 pounds. We got an enthusiastic response that Mac Angese was our boy. And he turned out to be great. He has gone on to be a first class skiff sailor, and I’m sure you will read his name in the future. We also became good friends with his parents. After all, we had to coordinate to get his homework done after racing.   Well, Kyle is getting his homework done, too. He likes math and is very good at it. And I am pretty sure you will eventually be reading about him in this magazine, too. And I think I am a little bit younger by being around him as well.