The Australian Sharpie is a highly competitive yet social class with a long history of attracting and developing champion sailors

Monday, March 23, 2015

Perth sharpie fleet boosted by juniors

MANY yacht clubs find it hard to keep keen young sailors involved and in particular, get them to transition from junior classes into senior dinghies without drifting away from the sport.

It's not always easy and it's not as simple as just having a 'step-up' class sitting there for them to get into.

Some of Perth's junior sailors who gave sharpie sailing a go at. Photograph: WA Sharpies.

Mounts Bay Sailing Club on Perth's Swan River is one club that's recognised this issue and has turned its eyes back towards old-fashioned 'try-out' days to broaden junior perspectives on sailing.

On Sunday, the Western Australian division of the Australian Sharpie Sailing Association had six sharpies on the water, each skippered by juniors, including several not even in their teens.

"It was a fantastic experience, not just for the kids, but surprisingly for the older guys crewing for them," WA sharpie secretary Neil Stanbury said.

"I think we had as much fun as the kids steering."

Mr Stanbury said the event marketed well to the younger generation and the sharpie association did not have any issues convincing juniors to get involved.

"This year we identified some kids we wanted to get involved and tapped them on the shoulder about taking part.

"They didn't need much convincing to give the long boats a go.

"The model really seemed to work. They can already sail, so it was a case of running through the unique things about sharpies on the lawn first; like how they generally behave on the water, handling gybes, that they take a bit longer to spin around than a flying ant, and so on."

The format was three short races on a windward/leeward course, which made for close, competitive racing and plenty of excitement.

The tremendous thing was that not one of those skippers did badly, even though there were a couple of swims.

Mr Stanbury said having each boat with two seasoned sharpie sailors in the crewing positions increased the junior sailors confidence and made it a more enjoyable learning experience.

"It was a fairly light day at around 10 to 15 knots which was ideal, but it kicked in a little later on and there was a great moment when boats just took off with the kite up and a young bloke on the tiller was giggling and grinning from ear to ear," Mr Stanbury said.

"It was definitely that moment when I think he mentally thought 'yep, I could see myself in one of these later on'."

Sharpie sailors Ian Davidson and Craig Mann show the juniors the ropes. Photograph: Down Under Sail.

The WA sharpie association, which ran a very successful national championship at Mounts Bay two years ago, has already decided to run two try-out days next season; one early in summer and another later in the season, as well as cranking the promotion of these days up as a 'Dash for Cash' format and inviting young sailors from other classes and other clubs.

"Kids aren't that complicated. They basically want to have fun, give something new a go and if there's some prizes going, that's a bonus, so the promise of a few cash prizes should be a hit," Mr Stanbury said.

"This time, we gave out some sharpie t-shirts that'll no doubt get worn around the place, plus some sharpie stickers."

The try-out day comes just a week before Mounts Bay's closing day, then in the next month the club will hold a strategic meeting to talk about the best ways to strengthen junior sailing in the future.

"It's a fairly complex and multi-pronged issue.

"You've got to have the right classes, the right environment where kids want to be, have parents happy about the program and generally make it fun."

Mr Stanbury said Olympic pathway classes were not for every sailor and it was good the juniors knew the sharpie was there for them in the future.

"Not every kid's going to be an Olympic sailor so frankly ISAF classes aren't the priority for clubs like ours, even though if you want to sail a 49er or 29er there's a place for you here," he said.

"Just like a boat, you have to get your settings just right and if you look around, the clubs that have thriving junior scenes are doing that."

Sharpies have a big future in Australia, being challenging, exciting, social and an addiction to both social sailors and also those who want to be very competitive.

They are relatively low-cost and have the bonus of great state and national-level fleet sailing.

The class had its genesis at Mounts Bay in the 1960s after the Addison brothers introduced the class, it took off nationally and has never looked back.

"We're really optimistic about sharpies and their future here in WA, but we've got to invest in the juniors and get them to realise that these are boats that give so much back to you, as adults."

"There are guys here who've been sailing them for 30 or 40 years, Paul Main's still skippering a sharpie and he's in his 50th year and none of them want to give it away.

"That's gotta mean something, so it's a message we want to share."

For more information about sailing sharpies in Australia, visit the national website.

For more information about Down Under Sail contact Marc or Harry at

Reposted from Downundersail

Please send us your news, photos, video, links to so we can add it to the website.