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Kate Cope of the UK Double Handed Offshore Series says the format can provide more, rather than fewer, opportunities for young sailors

Now and again I hear the criticism that the double handed format is providing fewer opportunities for youngsters to enter or progress in offshore sailing. As my UK-based experience is the exact opposite of this, I thought I would share what was working, with the hope that it can inspire other countries to copy one of the UK initiatives.

When we set up the UK Double Handed Offshore Series in 2021, one of our early goals was to create pathways for young adults, typically in their early 20s, transitioning from dinghy classes to bigger boat racing. Just announcing the intention and creating a single point of contact for skippers and youngsters already got the ball rolling. Whilst I knew there were opportunities, I surprised myself just how many double handed skippers are looking for co-skippers to allow them to add more offshore races to their programmes or cover the inevitable gaps when co-skippers have other commitments. We also have a growth in the number of boats with new skippers entering the scene in new boats all needing partners. Experience has not really been a barrier, we have a range of offshore race lengths and many short-handed sailors are, in a worst-case scenario, comfortable in sailing single handed allowing youngsters to get aboard, bring the skills they have and learn the rest as they train and race.

Our crew match initiative gained momentum and every month more matches are made. We considered online, however we elected to keep the personal touch. Skippers are looking for different skills and experience in their co-skippers to create a diverse partnership and being actively involved allows better matching. In 2022 24 per cent of sailors in the UK Double Handed Offshore Series were 25 years old or under. Recently we matched four youngsters for racing and my favorite feedback was from one who told me they had learnt more in three months of double handed sailing than three years of sailing fully crewed. They love the chance to try out all the roles onboard particularly helm, nav and tactics.

Main picture: young sailors step up to compete in doublehanded ocean racing when an owner or co-skipper is unable to sail. In this year’s AZAB, Conor Corson and Elin Jones won Leg 1 in IRC Class 2 and came second in IRC overall

We have partnered with the Gentoo Sailing Team Youth Development Programme as many of their youngsters are also interested in shorthanded sailing. Set up by James Harayda and linked to his Imoca 60 Vendée Globe campaign, the Gentoo Youth Programme is an initiative to support and inspire the next generation of sailors and sailing community leaders who will continue their passion for the sport far into the future, ultimately growing the sport of offshore sailing. The youth team has access to coaching, offshore racing experience, internship opportunities and Imoca 60 work, plus access to networking within the industry in order to achieve their unique ambitions. For offshore racing they have the use of a Farr X2 generously supported by Sea Ventures Race Yachts.

Another Initiative developing offshore talent is Young Tigris, led by Gavin Howe. He has set up his classic Chanel 32 Wavetrain and invites a different youth mixed pairing to take part in each offshore race, combined with practical and theory training to prepare them. For many it’s their first race offshore. Amy Hinsliff-Smith who recently

raced RORC Myth of Malham sums up the experience: ‘As my first offshore race, going double-handed with Charlie was incredibly daunting but we made sure we were as prepared as possible and used the training day to our full advantage. It was an unreal experience to race with so many highly skilled teams in a variety of weather conditions and has really made me excited to race more offshore’. Charlie Muldoon adds: ‘This MoM was truly an unforgettable experience, it provided the perfect platform for learning double-handed manoeuvres and improving offshore tactical decision making. I owe immense gratitude to Gavin for running this incredible programme, opening up the world of double-handed racing for young sailors like us, all aboard the beautiful classic Wavetrain’.

The RORC is also contributing to the opportunities having partnered with Marina Militare Nastro Rosa to provide young sailors with a free Figaro 3 to take part in the various double-handed tours, European and World championships around Italy.

Finally, in March, the UK Double- Handed Series crew-matched Conor Corson (27) with Elin Jones (20) after an owner was unable to sail the Azores and Back race due to other commitments. Racing on Asgard, a SunFast 3300, Corson and Jones have just become the youngest AZAB winners ever, winning leg one in IRC Class 2 from Falmouth to Ponta Delgada and 2nd in IRC Overall. So, watch out, these youngsters are not just taking part in offshore races but winning them as well!

Click here for more information on the UK Double Handed Offshore Series »
Click here for more information on Sea Ventures »

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