Twelve Ideas for Developing a Provincial Youth Sailing Team in Québec (Part 2)

VII. Extend the Sailing Season with Training in New England

If the sailing season is particularly short in Quebec, it is less so just a few hundred kilometers away, in New England. Already, some athletes from Quebec are training there, for example at the excellent Sail Newport public sailing center in Rhodes Island (see picture).

Extending the sailing season for Quebec athletes is fortunately possible by organizing long weekends of training and / or competitions in New England.

For example, by missing only two school days on Thursday and Friday, it is possible to have a departure on Wednesday evening by road, and a return on Sunday at the end of the day. From Montreal, it's about 600 km of road and it's very feasible.

Logically, the idea would be to have an agreement with Sail Newport or another similar center to bring the boats in the fall, once it is no longer possible to practice in Quebec, and leave the boats there, to organize for example 2 long weekends of training, which would be held every two weeks.

In spring, the advantage is even greater, because during a period of about 6 weeks, which would allow 3 or 4 long weekends of training, the conditions are typically good in New England, while not yet in Quebec.

If five long weekends are organized in total, it increases the practice time on the water by twenty days per year, which is considerable.

This obviously requires some logistics and has financial consequences, but remains reasonable. Accommodation is not expensive in the region at this time of year, and it is possible to organize the athletes to share the rooms. The costs of transport by road are also limited, especially in the case of carpooling.

VIII. Organize Winter Training, with Priority During School Holidays

The need to practice competitive sailing in winter is a generally recognized one. Is this essential? Maybe not, if the season is already extended through practice sessions in New England in the Spring and in the Fall. Is this desirable? Certainly, at least once in the winter, ideally twice.

There are multiple destinations in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Europe or even Australia or New Zealand.

To limit costs and jet lag issues, Florida is however the most logical destination. If the boats are already in Newport, RI, there is about 2500 km to go to South Florida, which is achievable in 2 days of road. For athletes and coaches, flights to airports such as Fort Lauderdale, Miami, St Pete-Clearwater are obviously numerous.

It is therefore very feasible to set up training camps in Florida. There are several possible destinations, including Miami and Jensen Beach, where there are US Sailing Centers. Other destinations are possible, including Clearwater.

What is important is to have a solid program during this period and to have at least 10 days of practice on site. You have to make the most of the two weeks available.

To take into account is the Orange Bowl regatta, which can be run on the 4 boats. To participate is a decision to make at the level of each team.

If it is decided to participate in Orange Bowl, however, the team must stay in Florida the following week to train, whether in Miami or elsewhere.

For the winter camp, it could also be considered to open it to advanced athletes in the Optimist, if there are enough of them to justify the mobilization of a coach. It is expected that most advanced Optimist athletes will later become members of the provincial team, so this would be a useful connection between the two groups.

Note that the level of competition at Orange Bowl is generally high, and one of the conditions of success is to arrive there without having interrupted the fall season too early. This reinforces the rational for fall training in New England. If possible, one needs also to arrive as soon as possible in Miami, depending on school constraints, to train a few days before the Orange Bowl regatta.

The second school break that can be used is Spring Break, which takes place in early March. Again, it is possible to organize a camp in Florida during this week, the boats being already on site.

For this week, another location in Florida can possibly be chosen, to bring some variety and maybe also to control costs.

Note that just a few weeks after Spring Break, it is possible to resume training in New England, late March or early April.

IX. Use the Winter Period for Physical Preparation and Theoretical Training

It is important for competitive sailors to have a winter rest period, but not a too long one. With these proposals, it would be reduced from 6 months to 3 or even 2 months, depending on the winter training followed by the athlete.

But winter can be judiciously used for physical preparation and also theoretical training in strategy, tactics and racing rules.

For physical preparation, each athlete will have to commit to a training plan, performed alone or in groups, with a training frequency ideally of 3 or 4 sessions per week - limiting training to 2 sessions only being generally considered insufficient.

It will be up to the sporting director, in collaboration with the coach and possibly a fitness coach contracted for the event, to help each athlete develop a detailed plan and approve it. This must be done very carefully, as it will be too early for many of the athletes to use weights. Ideally, a monitoring / control mechanism would also be put in place to ensure adherence to the plan.

For strategies, tactics and racing rules, it can be organized for example 2 weekends, with invited experts. It could also be done via online training, which could be more practical for some athletes given the difficulties of transportation in winter, or other occupations of athletes. Or it could be a combination of both.

X. Control Annual Costs with Good Planning

If for many athletes, the practice of sailing began with a few weeks of summer camps, the reality of competitive sailing, at national and international level, requires to make sailing  a sport to be practiced for well over 6 months per year. This involves travel for training, suggested here in New England and Florida. It also requires travel for world-class regattas that need to be involved in appropriate doses.

The question of costs becomes essential, because for many families, in the absence of financial support, the budgets allocated to sport are limited.

The proposed approach aims to control costs. The cost in terms of coaching is quite similar to that provided in clubs, with the exception of the sporting director. It is especially the prolongation of the season, through training in New England, and the winter camps, which will significantly increase costs.

How to control costs? First, by having 8 to 12 athletes for each type of boat (or maybe even more in the case of double dinghies), and keeping a light structure, as already described.

Then you have to consider the total costs to families, including travel, food, housing. What avoids excessive expenses is to organize carpooling, and shared housing with kitchens. Camping can also be considered in some cases.

For each of the "sub-teams" of 8 to 12 athletes, by type of boat, It is possible that one or two parents are present, as a volunteer, and assist for transportation, food etc. Parents can play these roles - they are called chaperons in the Optimist class - in turn during the year. This reduces overall the real costs to families.

Note that in Europe, there is usually an additional person, being paid, who plays this role, and parents are then little, or not present at the competitions, even in the case of the Optimist. This is a way of doing things that should also be considered.

In the case of coach boats / RIBs, it will be important to find formulas with the clubs to avoid forcing the provincial team from having their own boats. But eventually, it will probably be necessary to make certain acquisitions - knowing that their rental are typically costly.

How much participation in such a provincial team will cost over a year? Everything will depend on the number and nature of the trips to regattas, including overseas, and the efficiency in the organization. Actual costs will have to be calculated based on an actual annual regatta and training program.

At first glance, the suggested approach probably does not represent a high extra cost compared to what most families already spend for their high performance athletes.

And some expenses, such as participation in particularly expensive regattas, or one of the two winter camps - for example, the Spring Break one - could be made optional.

XI. Develop Professional Communications about the Team’s Activities

There is a lot of potential to develop professional communications to publicize the activities of the team, to be able to show all that is done to improve the level of the athletes.

Thanks to social media such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, there is a lot of communication potential currently underused.

It is also important to have great tools, including drones, for photos and videos. It is also necessary from time to time to use professionals to photograph / film the athletes.

Improved communications will go a long way towards raising the profile of the sport, enhancing its value, attracting new athletes to competitive sailing in general, and the provincial team in particular, and providing quality multimedia material for seeking  governmental funding and sponsorships.

XII. Seek Public Funding and Sponsorships

Putting a team in place according to these suggestions should make it possible to demonstrate tangible progress of the athletes, and also to communicate them well.

It will then be easier to justify requests for public funding and private sponsorships.

It will also allow athletes and families to organize fundraisers with well-justified budgets.

Eventually, the budget of the provincial team will have to be increased, to allow additional expenses such as the occasional use of external coaches, invited experts, or additional training camps (for example at the International Sailing Academy in Mexico for 4.7 and Radial sailors), for additional international regattas, etc.

The key is to start with a small, credible, efficient and agile structure that can attract the best athletes and coaches, and to start working hard right now to maximize the development of young high performance athletes, while gradually establishing a permanent and viable structure for the provincial team.

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ADDITIONAL NOTES

As for the Quebec Circuit - a sequence of 5 or 6 regattas during the summer -, its critical role in the development of youth sailing needs to be recognized, but it is not the right environment for high performance athletes. From time to time, they may participate, however, if it fits in their schedule. It’s important to note that the Quebec circuit starts late compared to similar circuits in other provinces, and finishes soon too. If a first leg of the circuit was for example held the first or second week of June, near Montreal, it would facilitate participation by the members of the provincial team.

Similarly, the Quebec Games (« Jeux du Québec ») offer little interest for athletes aiming to reach an international level. Provincial team members shouldn’t actually participate in these games because it would be way too easy  for them, and this  could lead to frustrations for other participants. It's like putting a Red Fleet Optimist sailor in a Green Fleet - it does not make sense.

The role of the Quebec Championship, which typically takes place in Vaudreuil in the vicinity of Montreal in the second week of September, should be better highlighted. It is expected that all members of the provincial team would participate. Lately, some athletes who attend the regatta do not even know if it's a real Quebec championship, if they are Quebec champions, or if they have just participated in a Circuit du Quebec event among others.

For the Laser 4.7, it is important to separate it from the Laser Radial at regattas organized in Quebec. This is important because the two boats have quite different performances, and it is impossible to be competitive in Laser 4.7 as part of a regatta held with the Radial Lasers. It is essential to have separate starts. This is the only way to allow the development of this class and properly organize the transition from the Optimist. As already discussed, it is also necessary to separate the fleets to allow Quebec athletes to collect points for the North American "Grand Prix" organized by the class, which serves as a selection mechanism for the world championships. Joint fleets of 4.7s and Radials are not accepted by the Laser class.
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