Snipe Junior Program at AVB in Bracciano
Let me say that this is a story about a "beginning" just. It comes from several issues I faced during last years and I'll try to list them here: 1. Snipers' average-age keeps growing, and there's a quite dangerous lack of new people in the Snipe Class 2. In many western Countries (first of all Italy) there's a close to 100% rate of abandon from young kids sailing in the pre-Olympic Classes (mainly Lasers) as they become adult, let's say as they finish high school and move to University (in business-slang we'd say: there's a retention rate of kids passing from pre-Olympic Classes to Olympic Classess (or adult sailing) damn close to zero); 3. That massive abandon-rate is literally emptying not only the Snipe Class, but all the other Classes (many of them are already close to extinction), big-boats racing and Sailing Clubs as well; 4. In many Clubs there are unused Snipes: boats left under a cover for years, sometimes more than ten years, from owners whom quit Snipe sailing for several reasons: age, family commitments, or general economic downturn, a condition which stopped people from sailing and prevented the selling of the boat due to the lack of demand for used boats. So the general question was: how to fix those issues, or at least some of them? ...
Let me say that this is a story about a “beginning” just.
It comes from several issues I faced during last years and I’ll try to list them here:
1. Snipers’ average-age keeps growing, and there’s a quite dangerous lack of new people in the Snipe Class
2. In many western Countries (first of all Italy) there’s a close to 100% rate of abandon from young kids sailing in the pre-Olympic Classes (mainly Lasers) as they become adult, let’s say as they finish high school and move to University (in business-slang we’d say: there’s a retention rate of kids passing from pre-Olympic Classes to Olympic Classess (or adult sailing) damn close to zero);
3. That massive abandon-rate is literally emptying not only the Snipe Class, but all the other Classes (many of them are already close to extinction), big-boats racing and Sailing Clubs as well;
4. In many Clubs there are unused Snipes: boats left under a cover for years, sometimes more than ten years, from owners whom quit Snipe sailing for several reasons: age, family commitments, or general economic downturn, a condition which stopped people from sailing and prevented the selling of the boat due to the lack of demand for used boats.
So the general question was: how to fix those issues, or at least some of them?
The solution we figured out was try to fix the first three points, using the 4th, and that’s the story I’m going to tell.
I arrived at AVB almost 5 years ago, and fortunately I found a management of the Club really focused on some of the issues I mentioned up above.
Their idea (as mine) was to quit the policy of Italian National Sailing Federation, which was generating from years the issues summed at point 2 and 3, and find a way out of the box to keep kids on sailing after their pre-Olympic period, to avoid the decline of all the Classes present in the Club and to guarantee to the Club an alive&kicking “social-body” .
To do that we needed to get kids involved in something new and different from the current activity, as I said all focused on a single-handed, mainly physical and quite expensive boat like the Laser, indeed we needed something double-handed, low-cost, durable, spread enough, with an existing racing-circuit at Local, National and International level, something also really challenging from technical point-of-view, and not limited to people with a peculiar body size&weight.. I guess it sounds quite familiar to many of you.
The choice of the Snipe was quite easy.. but the choice not so easy to make it alive, due to the lack of boats available and due to the natural frictions inside the sailing-teams environment, where coaches made up their minds from years on the Federation’s (suicide) model, with many Clubs (too many) considering (and keep on doing that) kid’s activity as a cash-cow activity just, with no interest at all to “build” something but only to squeeze kid’s parents pockets!
Fortunately at AVB situation and people’s mind were quite well different, but we had to figure out something to make the snipe-4-kids possible with the available resources, and the first issue were the boats: we needed boats.
First Snipe came thanks to the Club and to the SCIRA Italy: the Club bought an old but really good snipe from a Member and the Italian Snipe Class put some money on it to make it easier.
We used that boat to start a sort of understatement of the frictions inside the sailing-teams environment, and it’s been a long and tough job but last summer we’ve been able to sent on the water a junior-crew to the Snipe Women’s Championship, the skipper came from our Laser team and the crew from our the sailing-school, first time for both of them on a Snipe at all. I know it was just a little step, but in the right direction.
So we caught the momentum to try to push harder, but we needed some other boats as usual.. and so the idea: why do not ask to our members having a not-used Snipe to lend it to the Club?
At that moment we had three Snipes abandoned from years in the boat-yard, so we asked the availability of them for our kids, for 12 months, all the living costs up to the Club, and a little discount (the parking fee) for the Owner.. and two of our Members said yes!
Besides that we involved also another kid from the Laser-team, having a Snipe from his father and (really crucial) we put Gonzalo Crivello in our Staff as Coach of our sailing-team, with no distinction between single and double-handed boats, obviously we presented the program to the kid’s parents, and incredibly as it sounds: during next weeks we’ll bring four all-juniors-boats to the Snipe Winter Championship in Talamone!!
I wrote “incredible” because I never believed it possible just three months ago, but here we are.
We know that’s just a small achievement, I consider it as the first little step of a long and steep climbing, and I can’t foresight the outcome, but we have a bunch of clear targets.
We want to evolve the sailing-team model from an “only-single-handed” model to a model where kids are allowed to sail any kind of different boats, we know there’ll be kids whom will prefer stay exclusively on the Laser, other kids will choose the Snipe and someone else will sail both, and probably we’ll have clearer ideas about that after Talamone. Indeed after Talamone, together with kids and their parents, we’ll assess the feasibility to bring some of them to the 2017 Italian Nationals circuit, with the aim to get some crews qualified for the next Snipe Junior World Champ. in La Coruna.
Beside that, the general target is to grow sail-racers, not lasers-to-waste only, guys capable (and interested) to sail not only the boat chosen for them from some Federal bureaucrat, guys capable and interested to keep sailing also after high-school, when their time and resources for sail-racing will inevitably drop, guys aware that is possible to keep on sail-racing also if you’re not a 1,90m tall, 90kg weight, 5 days in a week gym-pumped beef with (at least) 10k€/year to spread in a game!
I know perfectly how it’ll be though, but I’m confident about the job done inside the Club till now and about the changing of attitude that’s spreading through all the Staff of the Club thanks to the Gonzalo’s precious job, I’m also confident about the support from the Italian Snipe Class, always really sensible and involved on these sort of issues, and I hope we’ll see again the same kind of sensibility from the Clubs hosting our activity, as Talamone that made the Winter Champ. zero-fee for juniores, and Yacht Club Lignano, that made the same choice for the recent National they hosted during last October.
Last but not least, the brand new President of Italian Sailing Federation, in his first public interview three days ago, said and suggested exactly what we’re trying to do on the Snipe at AVB.. I’ve to say I usually do not trust federals but it’s the beginning of his 4 years long mandate, and it’s the first time that a President of FIV has a positive position about that, so we’ll see.
As I said, and as a bunch of guys from Liverpool also said quite better than me before me: it’s a long and winding road, but I think it’s not only worthy, it’s also one of the really few chances we have to keep Snipe activity safe&sound for the next decades.
So thanks so much to Claudio and Alessandro to have lent their boats for this project, to the AVB to be so deeply committed on that and to all the other few Clubs the support these kind activity!
See you in Talamone.
PS: for everyone has kids interested to be part of this project: