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Celebrating the Siebel Sailors Program, foiling in New York and the Star Worlds

by David Schmidt 25 Jun 2019 16:00 BST June 25, 2019
RS Feva XL to be featured as Primary Boat for Siebel Sailors Program © US Sailing

While the past week has seen a flurry of news from events as diverse as the Race to Alaska, the SailGP New York event, and the Star Worlds, as well as news about the start of this week's Transatlantic Race, it was a press release last week from US Sailing that caught my eye and captured my imagination. Instead of high-level Corinthian or Olympic-sailing news, this press release instead announced that US Sailing and RS Sailing had created a partnership to deliver 120 RS Feva XL sailboats for the Siebel Sailors Program, which is the community-sailing program that's being launched thanks to a generous donation from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation.

The Siebel Sailors Program's goal is to unlock sailing opportunities for all interested comers, regardless of their socioeconomic background. This includes creating access to sailboats, equipment, and coaching at community sailing centers at five different geographic networks. Each network will include one center, plus three supporting centers; each of the five centers will receive six RS Fevas XL dinghies, plus a coach and powerboat, and each of the five regional networks will receive a total of 24 boats (including the six at the regional center). Additionally, each program will be given the tools necessary to track each sailor's learning curve.

To become a Siebel Sailors Program center, the center must use US Sailing-certified instructors; have standing relationships with groups that serve under-represented groups; subscribe to accepting 50 percent of their program participants from socioeconomically challenged neighborhoods and areas, and have a proven history of supporting racing and competitive sailing. Finally, each regional center must be a recognized and current Accredited Community Sailing Center.

US Sailing has identified Chicago, the Mid-Atlantic (Baltimore/Washington D.C.) region, and San Francisco as the first networks to meet its standards, and future areas will be determined via an application process.

"We needed a boat for the Siebel Sailors Program that would be fun to sail, incorporate teamwork, and help with skill development," said John Pearce, US Sailing's Youth Director, in an official US Sailing official press release. "The fact is that the RS Feva is a two-person boat allowing sailors to work together and be social. The size of the boat is perfect for students in the 10 to 15 age range, which is a critical time for learning new skills and fostering a passion for sailing."

We at Sail-World.com applaud this generous gift from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, and we cannot help but consider the intentional butterfly effect that this gift will hopefully help to create and nurture.

As a former America's Cup and Olympic medal-winning friend of mine commented after hearing this news: "Could you imagine what would happen to U.S. Olympic sailing if one America's Cup team instead took that same money and bought Lasers?"

While it's doubtful that 120 Feva XLs cost as much as campaigning for the 36th America's Cup, my friend's point perfectly aligns with this great news and will hopefully help to attract countless new sailors into our floating fraternity, while also helping to increase the Star Spangled Banner's rotation at future Olympic sailing medal ceremonies.

Meanwhile, in foil-borne news, the flying spectacle that is the SailGP circuit passed through the Big Apple last weekend (June 21 and 22), giving New Yorkers their first taste of this fully professional, wingsail-powered sailing event. A total of five fleet races were sailed, plus a final match-racing contest between Tom Slingsby's Australia SailGP team and Nathan Outteridge's Japan Sail GP squad that saw the Japanese team end the two-day regatta in first place, both for the New York event and, by a razor-thin one-point margin, for the overall season.

"We knew it would be a challenge and what I am really proud about is that our whole team focused every single step of the way," said Outteridge in an official SailGP release. "I am relieved because we really needed a win, we deserved to win, and I am proud of everyone's effort. The Aussies are, without a doubt, the team to beat, and I think now we are starting to even out the playing field and can't wait until [the next SailGP event at] Cowes."

American interests were represented by skipper Rome Kirby and his United States SailGP team, who finished up their New York event on the podium's third step, and who are now sitting in fourth place overall, on the six-team leaderboard.

"The boys were pretty fired up to go racing today, and it showed," said Kirby in this same official SailGP statement. "To win a race is awesome but we want to win events. But we're happy to be on the podium, and it was awesome to see the crowd out there."

SailGP racing is set to resume on the waters off of Cowes, UK, from August 10-11, so stay tuned for more, as it unfurls.

And in One Design news, word recently hit that Polish skipper Mateusz Kusznierewicz, sailing with Bruno Prada, won the 97th edition of the Star Class World Championship (June 13-23, 2019), which was held off of Porto Cervo, Italy. Kusznierewicz and Prada were joined on the winner's podium by the American-flagged team of Augie Diaz and Henry Boeining, and the Norwegian-flagged team of Eivind Melleby and Joshua Revkin.

"We are really happy to have won this Championship, it's almost incredible when I think that this is the first time I have raced with Bruno (Prada)," noted Kusznierewicz. "Our aim was to give it our all and never give up and that's what we did. From start to finish, even when we were behind in the fleet we always managed to recover and finish well. We knew that every result counted and this is a sweet taste of success for us."

Interestingly, Diaz received first prize as a Star Class Grand Master, an elite title that's reserved for skippers north of 60.

While it's disappointing that Stars are no longer an Olympic class, Sail-World extends big congratulations to Kusznierewicz and Prada, and to Diaz and Boening, for winning top honors and top grand masters honors, respectively.

Finally, Sail-World.com wishes all sailors and vessels competing in the 2019 Transatlantic Race, (which starts on Tuesday, June 25) safe and speedy passage from Newport, Rhode Island, to Cowes, United Kingdom.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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