bring 'em young

They called it a stopover and it was at the site of the Volvo Ocean Race Stopover in Guangzhou and it was 7 boats but there the similarity ended.
But please don’t think that the first line is leading to words belittling the efforts of the event here on the Pearl River this past weekend. The fact they called it a ‘stopover’ clearly shows the impact the VOR is having on the psyche of the young Chinese sailor.
Seven young teams from around Guangzhou Province were battling it out in this 5 race regatta. Age limited to 16 and sailing, not in Oppies or Toppers but Far East 26 cruisers in what was part 2 of a three event series encompassing Shenzhen, Guangzhou and next month Hong Kong.
It was also noticeable these were all kids who learned to sail as various yacht clubs in the Guangdong area and not graduates from the state sailing teams.
Wind conditions were gentle but, almost as if to make up for that, the tide was ripping, especially up around the top mark as many teams found to their cost. Also with many of the young sailors being more used to dinghies rather than keelboats they were caught out by the boats slipping sideways after a tack while the keel started working again meaning multiple tacks were in evidence close to the windward mark, and by the way, when I say ripping – I mean 3 knots plus.
I had been invited to sit on the judge boat and I have to say from that side of things it was boring. Boring in that the judges had nothing to judge. The sailing was clean with no one trying to push rights that were not theirs, taking turns when they touched the mark (that ripper of a tide again) and that was, in many ways, refreshing.
It was also clear the kids were having fun and really enjoying their regatta and this was even in evidence at the on shore debrief where the youngsters could be observed soaking up all their coaches were telling them.
2 down and next month the finale in Hong Kong. China’s next generation of keel boat sailors? Who knows but if the local youth regattas can continue to grow, and I suggest they continue with the same ‘serious but fun’ type format then sailing in China may just be on the right long term tack.