The Newport Sea Base, a youth maritime center for the community operated by the Orange County Boy Scouts in Newport Beach, CA, is sending a team of teenagers to participate in the 2016 Islands Race on March 11-12. This 120-mile offshore race will be one of two lead-up races, the other the 68th Newport to Ensenada Race, ahead of the California Coastal Cup and their planned participation in the SoCal 300 Race.
The team, which has an average age of 15.5 (minus the adult advisors), will be sailing an IMX 38, aptly named Apprentice. The Newport Sea Base also races three Olson 30s and a Columbia 30 sport boat, putting teenagers on the helm and in control of the boats as much as possible. The teens have worked to put together watch lists, evaluating people’s strengths so that they can sail fast and hard through the night.
The teens have created the weekend’s menu and will go shopping for provisions. The boat has been cleaned thoroughly ahead of the race and gear checked and re-checked. They’ve learned to use flares, thru-hull plugs, the proper use of the marine VHF, and even how to navigate manually using charts.
Taking a decidedly different tack than most youth sailing programs, the Newport Sea Base, though teaching beginning sailing to youth in small dinghies such as the RS Tera/Feva and CFJs, pushes students into big boat sailing when possible. Since 1937, the facility has been a home to Sea Scouts, a co-ed program of the Boy Scouts, which teaches youth leadership through general seamanship and maritime traditions.
Everything from day sailors to small tug boats to tall ships have been sailed by teens out of the “Base” over the decades, providing opportunities to generations of future mariners, from Bill ‘the Wizard’ Lee, founder of the famous Santa Cruz sleds, to Gino Morrelli, of Morrelli & Melvin the catamaran design gurus.
For the Islands Race, Kitty Brough and Catherine Reynolds, both 16 years old, will be sharing duties on helm. About sailing in this weekend’s race, Kitty says, “Offshore sailing makes you leave your comfort zone. It’s always challenging – physically and mentally.
We also bond out on the water, especially as land falls below the horizon and night falls. We have to rely on each other for our safety, which is a level of seriousness beyond what most people my age have to be responsible for in their activities. I look forward to the challenges.”