Supporting a Generation of Champions


April 5, 2005
Graduation Day for Record Class of 136 at CISA Clinic

LONG BEACH, Calif.---There may be untold trophies and Olympic medals out beyond the horizon awaiting some of the 136 bright young prospects who absorbed brain- and bone-crunching instruction at the California International Sailing Association's 28th annual Advanced Racing Clinic, but that's in their hands now.

"Now it's up to us to go out there and try our hardest to benefit from all this good coaching," said Adam Roberts, 17, of San Diego.

The total enrollment was a record and included about one-third girls. Selected on the basis of their sailing résumés, they ranged in age from 13 to 19 and came from 13 states in every corner of the country, plus Hawaii and one girl from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Over four days and nights, a staff of 21 coaches with world-class credentials, including three 2004 Olympic medalists and four other participants, drilled them in classroom clinics ashore and sailing drills afloat in six classes of single- and doublehanded boats.

Among the 21 instructors were Athens Olympians Kevin Burnham, Charlie Ogletree, Lenka Smidova, Katie McDowell, Isabelle Kinsolving, Pete Spaulding and director Peter Wells. The advice they offered was both sophisticated and basic.

Burnham, an Olympic gold medalist from Miami Beach, amused the group one evening with a slide sequence of his victorious back flip at the finish line in Greece but also told a class the next morning, "Overtrimming the jib is really slow."

Bill Hardesty of San Diego, one of only two five-time collegiate all-Americans, offered this wisdom: "Good tactics are not having bad tactics."

Smidova, a silver medalist from the Czech Republic, said, "I've never experienced anything this big. In my country, we have grants from the government for the best sailors and they do this more times in a year but in much smaller groups."

Unlike other nations, the U.S. has no federally supported assistance programs for its amateur sportsmen or for the development of young talent. CISA, a 501(c)3 organization, relies on contributions of corporations and individuals to provide support of amateur sailors. Because it is non-profit and tax-exempt, all contributions are tax deductible.

CISA, founded in 1971, supports amateur sailors by providing travel grants for regional, national and international competition and funds local sailing programs and racing clinics.

Roberts, a member of the U.S. team for the Youth Worlds in Korea in July, said he owes his budding success to CISA.

"Four years ago I started off here at the very bottom with my friend Parker Shinn. We were so young we had no idea what we were doing. We've come a long way. Without the support of CISA, with the coaches, funding, this clinic---no way it would have happened."

It was the first CISA Clinic for another San Diego youngster: Laser sailor Philip Greene, 14, going on 15 next month. He comes from a family line of sailors and has been sailing since he was 8.

"I'm learning a lot of new techniques and some drills I've never done," he said after Day 1. "They're teaching us a lot of things about boat handling and how to keep your boat going fast and transitioning into different [points of sail] and conditions. It's a lot easier when you have someone looking at you while you're sailing to tell you what you're doing wrong.

"I tend to pinch my boat a little too much. The coaches told me that, so I’d hike harder and [turn] down a little and I started going faster right away."

On Day 2 he learned about the tactics of reading the wind.

"Right now I can see a puff and I can see the lifts and headers, but I'm having trouble looking for the shifts and being able to catch 'em right. Sometimes I'll get lucky, but a lot of times it would be nice to be confident and know I could do this all the time . . . just being able to sail smart."

On Day 3, when conditions were windy and rough, he learned about collisions when he got mixed up with Paige Johnston, 17, of Carlsbad, Calif., and his boat was damaged too badly to continue.

"It really wasn't anybody's fault," Greene said. "I got another boat and I'm ready to go out [Tuesday]."

The lesson, he said: "Be ready for anything and bounce back."

Greene was among the youngest students but wasn't intimidated.

"When they're beating me, it's like, well, they're older, but it's fun to come out here with the older kids and race against some of the best sailors," he said. "You get better every time you're out here with them.

"Before I came here I was a good sailor, but now that I've gone through this clinic once it's made a big difference. I'm gonna go out there in my next regatta and see exponentially better sailing from myself."

Yes, he said "exponentially." He attends Bishop School.

The final day was devoted to racing when the students could practice what their elite coaches had preached. Class winners (ages noted):

CFJ---Steven Natvig, 16/Wes Byrne, 13, Redondo Beach.
C-420---Allie Belcher, 16, Fullerton/Rachael Neal, 16, San Diego.
I-420---Adam Roberts, 17/Nick Martin, 16, San Diego.
LASER---Sean Kelly, 16, San Francisco.
LASER RADIAL---Fred Strammer, 16, Nokomis, Fla.
29ER---Lauri Lehtinen, 17/Sean Doyle, 17, Kailua, Hawaii.

Questions about CISA may be submitted to administrative assistant Marylee Goyan at

P.O. Box 17992
Irvine, CA 92713-7992

Rich Roberts
(310) 835-2526