Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bay Area Sailors Training Up for AC34

Enthusiastic sailors and boaters around the Bay Area have finally been able to get their feet - and more - wet with the America’s Cup, as a group of yacht club volunteers take on specific training that will certify them to become on-water volunteer marshals for the 2012-2013 events.

This weekend is the second training course for Cup volunteers from Bay Area yacht clubs to take a US Sailing safe power boat handling course and get recognized by the US Coast Guard and certified by NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators), a license that volunteers maybe required to have to marshal on the water for AC34 events.

“We ultimately need to about 200 marshals we can use for 2013 - those people will help us in conjunction with groups like the Coast Guard and the Neptune Coalition,” said John Craig, Principal Race Officer for the 34th America’s Cup.

The training course has been promoted through the America’s Cup Yacht Club Alliance - a group of yacht clubs in the Bay Area located on the water around the Bay who have come together to support the America’s Cup events with the provision of volunteers and other assets such as marshal boats.

Last weekend was the first training course, held at Cal Maritime in Vallejo, and Craig expects that a few more will be held later this year to ensure he can pull together a group of 200. “We wont expect those people to be out every day during events,” Craig said, “but we need a pool because we think we need to run 60 people a day.”

As part of the weekend-long course, the Coast Guard Auxiliary makes a presentation on how communications will work from their end, to the police/authorized enforcement boats, and from there into AC marshal boats which will help maintain the race-course.

There’s also an environmental session to ensure AC adheres to best boating practices with a speaker on endangered species and how to identify those as well as discussion on best practices when fueling etc.

The final component of the course is learning how the ‘box’ is defined and the different areas the marshals will be to maintain the course, or the ‘box’, where the boats will be etc., which Craig delivers himself.

“Last weekend went great,” Craig said. “We’re excited about this and the Coast Guard’s really been supportive. A lot of the people have some really good skills already so it’ll be interesting to get feedback to see if people learned a lot or a little.”

Aaron DeZafra, a former Commodore of the Corinthian Yacht Club who attended last weekend’s course thought it was really worthwhile.

“Spending a lot of time on boats as a lot of us do, I was hoping not to be bored out of my skull and I have to say I was really, really pleased with the course. It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot of stuff that I actually didn’t know or used to know (LOL). We learned some good techniques for boat handling that I had not put to use before.”

A high point of the weekend for DeZafra was Craig’s presentation, “It was great to hear first-hand what the course was going to look like, what to expect from commercial boats, how we’re going to operate, and how we’re going to be scheduled at a high level.”

Roxanne Fairbairn, also a CYC member and on the Race Council, also attended last weekend’s course and commented that it felt like things were really beginning to happen. “We had over 40 volunteers from clubs all around the Bay so it was really fun to meet new people and a great way to start building this Cup community here.”

This coming weekend there is another course planned which is sold out with 50 participants and a waiting list of 27. Volunteers are paying their way - it’s a $50 fee for the two-day course. If they bring their own boat there’s a 50% discount - some yacht clubs have people taking the course using their respective club boats.

Craig thinks that if the volunteer training is a success, hopefully it could be used for things other than the Cup such as clubs using the training for their own race committees. Either way, the Bay Area will have a well qualified pool of on-water volunteers to draw from for all kinds of future on-water events. Not a bad thing at all.

For more info, contact Melanie Roberts:

1 comment:

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