BEYOND the Comfort Zone

By Kimball Livingston, Senior Editor, West Coast

In junior sailing, Southern California’s CISA clinic is an Everest to be climbed. The kids are drawn by top-flight coaching, and the coaches push them out of the comfort zone. It’s not a one-man show, but one man has been the visionary. Of Tim Hogan, Chuck Sinks says, “Thousands of kids are sailing on his shirttails.” So, agonize if you must over the future of sailing, CISA works. The clinic happens next month, but there’s a good chance those kids you see out there now, relentlessly tacking and gybing in the crisp March air, are practicing for the practice. Here’s the scoop—

THERE ARE A FEW REALLY BIG EVENTS in junior sailing, and Coral Reef Yacht Club’s annual Orange Bowl Regatta is one of them. No less than 35 youngsters made the trek from Southern California last December for what San Diego supermom Jerelyn Biehl calls, “an international youth regatta with all the challenges, all the competition, all the chaos.”

But what’s the “how” of getting 35 California kids to Miami?

The answer: CISA, the California International Sailing Association.

Five-time veteran (“I took some hits along the way”) Tyler Sinks, 17, won the 420 class in Miami for the second year in a row. His crew was Morgane Renoir. CISA had four top-ten finishers in 420s; two in Radials; one in Lasers—and it wasn’t hard to find kids who came away empty-handed but happy. You’ll probably agree, that matters too.

Tyler learned sailing at San Diego Yacht Club and races now for powerhouse Point Loma High School. His dad is president of the Southern California Youth Yacht Racing Association, which ties all the elements together. Chuck Sinks says, “If kids do well at the Orange Bowl, it helps get them into the CISA clinic in April.”

Whoa! Sail a regatta to qualify for a clinic?

Yep. It’s all about that Everest to be climbed. Biehl says, “I remember one of the McKee boys standing up and telling the kids, if they hadn’t capsized ten times already they weren’t in the game.”

Boat builder Tom Shadden had the clinics up and running in the 1990s when Tim Hogan kicked CISA out of its own comfort zone. Within CISA, many deserve credit, Biehl says, “But Tim has the vision.”

Hogan says aw-shucks to that: “I ask, what works? We’ve expanded. The clinic is up to 135 kids and 20 coaches. It’s a little out of control, so we hired Robbie Dean to run it, and we’ve launched a multihulls clinic in the fall. Now that we have money left over, why not give out grants of $500 a kid to go to Miami? The first time, our coaching wasn’t so good, so the next year we fixed that.”

CISA clinics take place in Long Beach, California, at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, one of the great small boat clubs.

Other CISA accomplishments:

Supporting no less than three community sailing programs; buying 60 suits of 420 sails to level the playing field for high schools; buying nine International 420s to introduce tweakable boats. Hogan says. “We needed trainers with tunable mast rake and shroud tension. We had kids who deserved the experience of racing in Europe; that meant they’d be sailing I-420s. At a certain point I started paying more attention to Olympic programs and grants.”

Aha! The money.

No magic here, but a debt to the Magic Kingdom. Roy Disney leads the funding with $125,000 a year. Hogan says, “If I had time I’d go around the country, looking for a Roy in every region.”

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