Chances are, you are of a certain age and demographic if you’re reading this. If not, you’re rapidly becoming that demographic but all of you can still remember those lazy days of endless summer holidays when all that mattered was the relief and freedom of the sailing circuit, wherever in the world that was, post the relentless pretence of ‘studying’. You were young, fit, pretty cool (no not you) and hadn’t been subjected to the politics of the office and the greasy pole. Yet.
Simpler times in your imagination but oh so complex when you lived through them. Getting to that Youth Europeans or Area Championships or even just a Wednesday evening race was an extraordinary effort with the logistics supplied by, God bless them, parents, club coaches, older brothers, sisters with a driving licence (they always passed first), mates or simply the kindness of benevolent strangers. Sailing is more than a sport, it’s a community, a lifestyle, a habit and a global club. If you know, you know.
So I watch the video (that you can see below at the end of the blog) and look at the pictures of the Under 19 Youth Foil World Championships taking place at the aptly named Hang Loose Beach down on the ‘boot’ of Italy with a huge degree of jealousy. If you’re 17 or 18 there’s nowhere else on planet earth to be right now. It’s a killer event and even the hardest nosed, dyed-in-the-wool dug-out dinghy fan like me, gets it.
Cool kids doing cool things with cool technology and creating those bonds of friendships that in 20, 30 or 40 years’ time will hark back to this time. Partners will be met. Businesses will be hatched. Beers will be supped (don’t tell Dad), bonfires will be lit on the beach and life-skills will be honed that no teacher can teach. Lessons learned on the water whether that be foiling at a gazillion miles an hour or plodding upwind on a puddle in yesteryear’s design in Derbyshire are invaluable, character building and define you.
I promised I’d give Kite Foiling a chance and I’m doing it. I’ve immersed myself in the discipline and read the rules. I know my Moses T60 from my Moses T60 Sport and I’m all-in on fuselages, stabilizers, fuentes and Ozone Edge V10’s. If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, (and if I’m honest, I don’t either) go and download the Class Rules from the World Sailing site and prepare to be lost in a world that only your grand-kids should inhabit. It’s brilliant and rather like pop music, it annoys the hell out of the grown-ups who just don’t get it and never will. Always believe in youth.
And cast your mind back to the days when as kids we were supposed to be seen and not heard and sailing clubs were something for a pompous elite that would rather the clock turned back to the Victorian times. Some might say that describes a few clubs in the UK right now but largely as a sport we’ve moved far beyond that. And that’s a good thing. It also feels that slowly, the golden generation is coming into power at national and world bodies. It must go harder and faster in order to capitalise on the boom in participation in sailing but it will happen.
Telegraphing into the Hang Loose Beach is a worthwhile exercise. Watch the videos, see the enthusiasm, soak up the scenery and teleport yourself back to when you were in those kids wetsuits sporting cool bangles with the world at your feet. It’s fantastic and I wish the Kite Foil Association every success in hosting and running the event whilst creating the superstars of the future. Gold medallists are there, mark my words.
I just wish kite foiling as a discipline would convert on its promise and be something that is accessible to all. Oh I forgot – that’s Wing Foiling…everyone’s doing that. The IOC will be on that like a dose of salts…