North Sails LOFT NEWS

Story Contributors: Chris Bobyk


How You Can Help Propel The Next Generation

Chris Bobyk of Mimico Cruising Club shares his thoughts on the importance of giving youth sailors opportunity to sail on keelboats and shares ideas on ways to involve them.

When asked by the Toronto North Sails Loft if I could provide my perspective and experience in promoting youth racing , it was with great enthusiasm that I responded with a resounding YES! Why? Because the youth are the future to the sport of competitive racing on the lake. As our racing fleet numbers continue to decline often due to either lack of crew or reduced yacht participation , or both, fostering the next generation of owners and crew has become very relevant to ensure the future success of racing. So being given an opportunity to share my efforts over the years to involve the younger generation on our family boat Blast, my hope is that it will motivate local owners, either currently participating in racing or wanting to participate in racing, to outreach to our sailing youth, to provide them the experience and the opportunity afforded by keel boat racing. The more sponsors to the progression of our young racers into the sport of Keel boat racing the better the chance of their future long-term involvement in the sport. It’s all about the transition of our junior dingy racers into keel boat racing either as crew or future owners. It’s one aspect of contributing to the future of our sport.

I can take no credit for the desire to promote youth racing, it was bestowed upon me by the generation of sailors before me when I was a youth sailor. My experience in the sport of sail boat racing started as a kid as it did for many in our existing sailing community. My desire to pass the torch to sailing youth is not something I came up with but rather what I feel is a responsibility that was passed onto me as a young racer by others with a passion for sharing a sport that was important to them.  I was fortunate to have had wonderful mentors who welcomed me to gain experience and learn with them on their boats during and post my sailing school and dingy racing endeavors. This is where it all starts as it’s the youth of today in the sport that will be the mentors for the youth coming up behind them. I am a believer in empowering our younger sailors, let them make decisions, step in when asked/required or when your experience dictates in critical situations.  You will be rewarded as an owner, you will be inspired with what you observe and the result, you will be developing the future of yacht racing.

The model for promoting youth racing is simple – its all about providing junior racers the experience of both regatta racing and long-distance offshore racing. At a young age both my father and godfather and close family friend Don Green and their sailing futurity of friends involved me in their collective yacht racing adventures. My dad as a young man was brought into the sport by Don by providing the experience on his father’s boat. We actively raced as a family out of National Yacht Club on our family boats with my dad often taking other junior sailing school keeners with us , and my Uncle Don as I called him provided me the opportunity of racing with him on a number of distance races on Lake Ontario on his C&C 35 Motivation, as well as having me assisting in shore support for Evergreen during the Canada’s Cup. I was given the opportunity at a young age to sail with remarkable sponsors on not only the family boat but on other members boats at NYC, actively participating in racing around the lake.  Beyond my parents and Uncle Don other owners also provided me the opportunity to be involved in the maintenance and caring for their boats, providing best practices and education beyond racing and crewing which for a perspective future boat owner I found invaluable. In all this forged my passion for sailing and racing. I was even given the opportunity in my early 20’s to help transport a Whitby 45 from the Annapolis boat show to Florida off shore on the Atlantic.  These opportunities provided by owners gave me seamanship and yacht handling skills that I rely on today, transitioning me into an owner and active adult racer.  I am a believer that mentor ship of our young sailors is a critical element of the process for long term engagement in the sport either as adult crew or future owners /racers. Its giving back with the same passion I have to the sport instilled in me by others.

Our younger generation of racers need a continued platform of support beyond sailing school to provide them with experiences that will keep them passionate and involved- racing boat owners have the opportunity to provide the vehicle (mentoring youth crew) on their racing boats.

The Etobicoke Yacht Club (EYC) sailing school program is where my initial focus was, in part being close to Mimico Cruising Club (MCC) but also due to my association with the junior racers , resultant from our boys Ryan and Trevor both attending sailing school at EYC and Ryan instructing , and later joining the dry sail program with a laser followed by a 29er. Recruitment of young racers grew from there to Oakville/Brontë and the NYC programs. The experience provided by keel boat racing being the natural progression from dingy sailing can only in most circumstances be provided by existing owners that participate or want to participate in racing.  It’s a two-way street they learn big boat handling, navigation and other essential skills beyond dingy racing and owners learn from them , not to mention the enthusiasm and athleticism junior sailors bring to the crew.  Having watched these junior sailors learn and grow with my two boys on Blast as competent skilled racers, starting in their teenage years has been extremely rewarding. Some have purchased their own boats which they race today while joining the Blast team on select events. Its common place today that Blast is on the race course with a younger generation of crew. I often get on the boat not as the skipper or crew, but rather to provide support and suggestions. It’s inspiring to be in a position today to observe the magic of them working together, arriving at tactics, problem solving, navigating and doing well on the race course.

It’s about providing the opportunity and experience to the younger generation to ensure the successful future of racing on the lake and elsewhere. It has been well worth it and very fun. I know they will do the same as I have done to promote the next group of junior racers.

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