Sailor of the Week: August 13-19
Pearson Buell, of Lake St. Louis, Mo., embodies the true spirit of US SAILING’s U.S.A. Junior Olympic (J.O.) Sailing program. The J.O. program is a nationwide series of sailing regattas for youth ages 8 to 21. Each event in this family of regattas is hosted by a different club or organization, but all events share a common goal: to encourage young sailors to enjoy sailing and to develop their skill.
Pearson was responsible for the overall planning and management of the Lake St. Louis Sailing Club J.O. event on July 17-19. Having attended several J.O. events over the years with his kids, Pearson was up for the challenge of hosting one. Pearson and the Lake St. Louis Sailing Club have successfully hosted J.O. events over the past two years. In 2009 they doubled their participation numbers from 2008. His goal was simple, and in-line with the J.O. philosophy; make the event fun, make racing accessible to every level of sailor, and expand sailing interest among juniors in the Lake St. Louis area. Pearson and his great group of volunteers developed a creative and unique approach to engaging young participating sailors that could provide a model for many other J.O. race organizers in the future.
The club first introduced their annual Pirate Party in 2005. They decided to incorporate the party with the J.O. event. The Pirate Party helps young children get acclimated with sailing, while having fun. Even the college age kids and adults play an active role. The kids dress like pirates, and the club provides some basic supplies for the costumes. The party/game organizers send the kids out on the lake to look for the elusive pirate treasure, or clues to find the treasure. The younger kids are paired with older youth sailors or adults. Most of the adults defend the on-the-water treasure or clues with water guns, water balloons, and buckets of water. None of the pirates go home empty handed. They are all given a bag of pirate treasure “goodies” before the party is over. Pearson has noticed younger participants in this Pirates Party get more comfortable and more interested in sailing as a result of their participation.
Pearson also did an outstanding job with race management. They kept the race courses closer to shore so the parents can easily watch the racing from the beach or clubhouse. Courses were short in an attempt to prevent the fleet from getting spread out. Faster sailors didn’t have to wait a long time for their next race to start while the last sailors finished. Pearson also put a priority on media relations, which improved visibility for the event.
A life-long sailor himself, Pearson explains what he likes most about the sport, “Besides watching kids learn to sail, I love the feel of the boat on the water, and a sudden gust that thrusts the boat forward while I scramble to hike in response. Working with the forces of nature to make a boat sail efficiently produces a great sense of satisfaction. The experience never ceases to eliminate any stresses I might be feeling in my daily life.”