This year, the US J/22 Class Association awarded its first annual scholarship boat to Patrick Shanahan of the Brown University Sailing Team, which earned his team a fully outfitted J/22 and trailer. The team of six members competed on the J/22 circuit this summer which led up to J/22 Worlds in Kingston, Ontario in late August. Here’s an update with Patrick published in the international class newsletter…
What are you learning about keelboat fleet racing as opposed to match racing you often do?
For me personally, I have never really sailed anything but dinghies, and this summer began match racing and fleet racing keelboats. It has been a huge aid to have the other members of the team who have an extensive background in keelboats crewing and helping me learn quickly.
The two aspects of racing, whether it is match or fleet racing, are so different but so similar at the same time. One thing we really focus on when sailing the J/22 is to keep it simple. We don’t know the boat very well, but we know if we do the basics like focus on the shifts and breeze and keep the boat moving as best we can, we will get a good result. Once we start overthinking everything and focusing on all the little details, we will forget the basics and perform worse.
Being new to the J/22 Class this summer, how would you characterize the fleet?
The fleet has exceeded every single one of our expectations; everyone has been nothing but kind and friendly. Whenever we didn’t know how to do something or needed help, every single person has been willing to help and assist us. It has been the best experience to sail against such a kind and driven fleet because it is so intense and competitive, but everyone is so sportsmanlike and welcoming. We all want to find a way to remain a part of the Class.
There are many statistics about the drop-off in sailing participation post-college. What can be done to keep young people interested in the sport at that age?
Giving grants and scholarships like the J/22 Class Association has done is the best way to keep post-college sailors interested and able to sail. It doesn’t always have to be giving away a boat for the year either, it can be any sort of grant or help. Even if it is just a certain amount of money to aid in the costs of sailing or hardware for their old boat.
The biggest problem with continuing sailing after college is the cost of participating. Most of the time, recent graduates have to pay for their accommodations, car, food, etc. That leaves them with not enough money to continue to sail. With grants that help any little bit, this allows these recent grads to be able to continue to sail and remain competitive in the sport.
Comment: An active recruitment plan should be in place for clubs and fleets near colleges, as many of the graduates will stay in the area and are eager to continue in the sport. While they may be short of funds, the 20-somethings are long on enthusiasm. Pull them in as crew and soon enough they will figure out how to get their own boat.