Because Sabots Are Forever

30 Apr


By Kimball Livingston Posted April 30, 2014

Old and outdated?

Or a timeless classic?

I remember a day when that was a point of debate, but I think we’ve quietly gone beyond the handwringing that once went on over Southern California’s long love affair with its indigenous sail trainer, the tiny shoebox known as a Naples Sabot. It’s not just puppy love. It’s not over.

Sure, Sabots are regional, and you can find plenty of kids now in training programs that have moved on to the Opti, which offers international competition. But kids who grow up in Sabots and catch the racing bug and want to move on to Lasers or whatever find that their skill sets are “right there” with kids coming out of Optis. The evidence is in. Just go sail, and the rest will take care of itself.

So, this is an appreciation.

Photo KL

On display in the pool for US Sailing. Photo KL

At this year’s US Sailing Leadership Forum in San Diego, Naples Sabot 7200 had pride of place for the opening party, and plenty of the locals in attendance knew exactly whose hands 7200 had passed through over the years. The 2014 flagship of the mighty San Diego Yacht Club is a Sabot (grownups can play too) and that is a fact that is just plain cool, as cool as this otherwise-irrelevant shot that I really have to share of Commodore Charles Sinks. It’s cropped to run as a banner photo on the club’s Board of Directors page . . .

board_banner (1)

In new news, the Huntington Beach Sailing Foundation has a fleet of Sabots, some of which are more than 40 years old—almost as old as the foundation, which is partnering with the W.D. Shock Corporation to build a new fleet. More than 2000 kids have passed through the program over the years.


The foundation states its mission thus: “To develop the skills of individuals to sail; to foster confidence and self-reliance in a way that enhances self-esteem and mental, spiritual and emotional development; to promote competition in a manner that encourages teamwork, leadership, good sportsmanship and honor; and to provide a structured environment and fun summer activity for children as they grow and develop into young adults.”

It’s hard to argue with smiles like these . . .


Early beginners, ages six or seven, learn about water safety, knot tying, nautical terms and code flags. They get to spend time on the water with instructors and more experienced students. Slightly older kids learn about rigging, boat parts, wind direction, and the basics of racing. It is in this class that students can sail solo in a Naples Sabot for the first time and—

There is nothing to compare with being in command of your own ship at a young age.

Or, as John Kostecki (still the only person ever to win an America’s Cup, an Olympic medal, and a race around the world) explains of his own time in a sailing shoebox, “I liked to be in control.”

The courses are progressive, of course. And don’t you know this guy likes drawing this duty for the day?


With financial support from the public, the Huntington Beach Sailing Foundation is able to provide tuition-free lessons to children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the physically handicapped, and children of military personnel. Click the link for further info.

Photos courtesy of Huntington Beach Sailing Foundation and Lido Island Yacht Club

Postscript: The cluelessness of so many in the boating industry, when it comes to promotion and media, will forever astound me. This post was triggered by a press release from the W.D. Schock Co., and as I was writing, it occurred to me that, on San Francisco Bay, our training programs have pretty much all abandoned our own still-loved, near-sistership-to-Sabots, El Toros, in favor of Optis. El Toros, when capsized and swamped, do not self-rescue. Optis do, which in a heavy-wind region makes a strong argument for Optis. Huntington Harbor is a different, milder world, but I had a moment’s curiosity—no big deal—whether Schock was updating the Sabot in this special iteration. I called the company, but I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me, and three days later, I guess I’ve got the message, not.

Tom Schock, we miss you.

This article was syndicated from BLUE PLANET TIMES


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