Don’t tell the sailing industry that the population in the United States is getting older on average each year. There is a youthful trend sailing on the water these days.
“For all registered sailboats, sailors are younger these days,” said Thomas Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Sailboat owners, on average, are also younger than power boaters.”
According to the 2012 Recreation Boating Statistical Abstract study of boat owners in the United States, the percentage of sailboat owners in the 31-49 year old category has risen from 26.9 percent to 43.4 percent in the past five years. In addition, the 18-30 year old category also showed an upward trend of 22.3 percent to 33.3 percent while the 50-64 year old sector has fallen from 41.7 percent to 15.5 percent of the market in the same five year span.
The sailing industry is doing a solid job of reaching out to younger people getting them involved earlier.
“There are so many ways the industry markets to youth,” Dammrich said. “Organizations like US Sailing and the American Sailing Association offer youth sailing schools and programs around the country. They also offer resources on their websites and work with yacht clubs and boat clubs to offer youth sailing programs.
“Another way the industry is targeting youth is through the recreational boating industry’s national marketing program, Discover Boating. Some key marketing elements for youth include social media efforts, youth content on its website DiscoverBoating.com, and on-water youth training at boat shows around the country. In addition, Discover Boating is on site this year at the 2013 America’s Cup.”
A longtime contributor to the local youth sailing scene is the Indiana Sailing Association, Incorporated. This non-profit organization was established in 1989 to be a collaborative partnership of experienced sailors with students in East Chicago. As a result, thousands of young people have been introduced to sailing on Lake Michigan.
“It is best to learn by doing and having hands-on experience with sailing,” said Chris Kosovich, acting chief executive officer with the ISA. “That is what we do here. It is good training to team up with people who have experience like the coaches in our program so the kids can learn from those that have been out on the lake in various conditions.
“No matter how old you are the learning never stops with sailing. There are always subtle changes in the wind conditions and that challenge one to draw on past experiences or adapt to the changes at hand. While the fundamentals are similar regardless to the size of the boat, the learning never seems to end.”
A new grant funded program that the ISA is launching involves a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program with introductory sailing experiences for middle school students in East Chicago.
“This new focus of incorporating STEM with our on-the-water experience will definitely result in an increased level of student participation,” said Celia Oprinovich, sailing coach and STEM instructor. “I believe that presenting sailing in this fashion will enhance the learning.”