a kid wins it all

a kid wins it all

Milwaukee area sailors gathered last Saturday to collect awards for the summer of 2010, and to crown their season champion. And a kid won it all.

But not for sailing against kids.

Indeed, Whitney Kent, skipper of the J-30 Rafiki and a senior in high school, collected the SSYC Corinthian Yacht of the Year award. Whitney and her team, sister Alison, mom Cheri, step-dad Eric and friends, out-sailed the adults on Milwaukee Bay. Whitney had the helm in every race. But this award isn’t just for scoring well in races. Bay-area skippers vote for the recipient of this award based on both on- and off-the-water leadership. Whitney was the clear winner.

Consider that Rafiki just hit the water this summer, having sat neglected in a yard for many years. Whitney’s family made a low ball offer and spent most of last winter and spring cutting out and rebuilding huge soft spots. Whitney missed most of the spring youth sailing season so that she could spend more time in the boat yard sanding and painting.

Nobody expected the boat to get to the starting line. Then Rafiki won the PHRF Section 3 season series even though they missed the first two regattas readying the boat.

And while Whitney led her inter-generational Rafiki team to the series title, she demonstrated sailing leadership in many other ways:

  1. Whitney trounced the adult sailors, winning the double-handed series (with her sister Alison (17) and my daughter Kate (16) as alternating crew.
  2. Whitney led an all-kids team to an 8th place among 70 division boats in Louie’s Last Regatta while raising money for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. And they took 2nd in the costumes competition by wearing footy-pajamas under lifejackets (in October on Lake Michigan).
  3. A special, all-girls, all-teens Rafiki team is the one to beat in Division 2 in the Milwaukee Bay Women’s Sailing Series.

If you are lucky to meet Whitney, you’ll find her to be confident, friendly and engaging. She’ll help you if you need it. She’ll work as hard as anyone on the team. She’ll smile into the teeth of a storm. She oozes contagious, authentic enthusiasm for sailing.

Congratulations to champion sailor Whitney Kent, and the family and friends who make up all her Rafiki teams, for reminding us why sailing isn’t just for adults. Or kids. It’s for both adults and kids.

– Nicholas Hayes, Author of Saving Sailing.