A national "come-and-try" initiative run by the Australian Sharpie class last weekend has given hundreds of kids around Australia a look into their sailing futures, after clubs across the country got behind the National Kids in Sharpies Weekend.
Clubs in all Australian states and also in Canberra rallied behind the idea as a fresh way to remind younger sailors of the senior sailing options at their home clubs and reinforcing the importance of club sailing and grass roots classes to the sport.
Event organiser and Western Australian Sharpie State President Neil Stanbury said clubs and classes that were at the coalface of grass roots sailing were constantly being challenged to find new ways to encourage the next generation to remain involved in the sport.
He said it was easy for youngsters to feel out of place after graduating from youth development squads, especially if they end up aged out of a youth class with no funding for the next step on the professional pathways.
"Traditional club-based pathways are crucial for sailing to remain relevant and viable at the grass roots level, and the Sharpie class is perfectly aligned to do this, while also promoting competitive, affordable and enjoyable racing," Neil said.
"The National Kids in Sharpies Weekend wasn't a hard sell, it was simply a way to reinforce the idea to kids that Sharpies may suit them at some point in their sailing futures."
The Geographe Bay (Busselton), Mounts Bay and East Fremantle clubs were part of the initiative in Western Australia, as well as the Brighton & Seacliff, Adelaide and Largs Bay clubs in South Australia.
There was also a lot of activity at the Mordialloc Sailing Club in Melbourne and also at the Sandy Bay Sailing Club in Hobart, two clubs that are showing strong enthusiasm in the Sharpie class.
The YMCA and Canberra clubs in the ACT got behind it as well, even though there wasn't any wind, and put dozens of youngsters through the boats.
"It was an awesome day and it's so great to see so many enthusiastic young sailors eager to get involved and try out the long boats," Neil said.
"Well done to all the sailors, volunteers, parents, and boat owners involved in the weekend right across the country, it worked almost spontaneously, mainly thanks to the level of excitement that was there.
"Strong clubs allows for great local sailing and events like this mean we can ensure the sport is available to future generations long after we're gone."
The National Kids in Sharpies Weekend has caused a groundswell of support for the class at club level, with a number of the clubs continuing to run more come-and-try days throughout the remainder of the season.
For more information on how to get involved in the Sharpie class, head to www.sharpies.com.au and get in touch with your local state committee.
- Harry Fisher