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Kids on Boats — Homegrown Crew

How do you bring more sailors to the sport of sailing? Start early and start small.

Hans List is the commodore of the Master Mariners Benevolent Association (MMBA). He and wife Sophie share that their three children became involved through association. “We had our 1940 Tahiti Ketch well before our daughters were born. We took Maggie, 13, on her first trip to Drake’s Bay at age 6 weeks. She slept in a fruit hammock suspended in the fo’c’sle.” As for racing, List notes Maggie’s first competition was the MMBA regatta in 2011 at 9 months old. Penny, 12, sailed her first race around the 2014 MMBA regatta at age 1.5. Greta, 10, sailed her first race at age 2 in 2016. Until recently, participation had been solely MMBA events; last year, each List child tried El Toro and Opti racing at Point San Pablo Yacht Club. Each is learning sportsmanship, seamanship and skills. “The keys are the importance of doing your best, the feeling of winning, and how to learn from your mistakes — all while having fun. Whether sailing sticks with them in the future or not, I know they will have skills and experiences to help them make the right decisions. We’re trying to leave the door open to a world we each love so much.”

Meanwhile, on a different breed of boat is Micah, who turns 5 in April. Son of Ryan and Kristin Simmons, he’s been spied topside on the J/105 Blackhawk, one of the most competitive vessels on San Francisco Bay. Last fall, Micah tried his first Friday night race. In 2022 and ’23, he completed the Great Vallejo Race and, said father, “Tells me weekly how excited he is for GVR — that’s his favorite race. He had so much fun, even landed mention in Latitude 38.” Most recently, this youngster crewed in Big Daddy, helping earn a ninth. Queried about the sport, his replies are honest and simple. Asked if sailing is an easy or a hard sport: “Hard.” To the question on what his friends think about sailing, he says they think “It’s good.” When asked, “What do you like about racing a sailboat?” he replies: “Putting up the sails and getting trophies.” Speaking of trophies, Micah has made an appearance at most Rolex Big Boat podiums when Blackhawk earned a place. “We bring him up to collect the trophy — he is so proud to be there with us.” The crew has a tradition to decide who was the most deserving during race action; that individual keeps the trophy. “It was really difficult for Micah to hand over the prize at first, but he is now fully committed and delivers it to the elected crew member.”

kids sailing
Micah Simmons crews aboard Blackhawk during the Great Vallejo Race.
© 2024 Ryan Simmons

Continue reading in the April issue Sightings.

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2 Comments

  1. Susan Flieder 1 month ago

    Our son sailed with us in his first Baja HaHa at 6 months, and he (at 2 years) and his sister (at 8 mos) sailed with us for 2 months in the Pacific NW. The kids have since sailed in another Baja Haha (ages 6 and 7 1/2), in Australia and New Zealand, Alaska, and often in California. Our son turns 18 on May 1st, and is no longer asking on the SWYC team, but still enjoys getting out there. It’s great fun for a family!

    • Martha Blanchfield (author) 2 days ago

      Thank you for the comment. That’s the start of a sailing legacy…were there any big surprises and adventures along the way? I am always on the hunt for great feature story nuggets~

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