JO Fact Sheet
Junior Olympic (JO) sailing was started in 1997 by US Sailing, the National Governing Body of the sport. The goal of the program is to draw more young sailors to the sport through this nationwide family of events. Each regatta offers youth sailors the opportunity to learn, enjoy the fun and excitement of competitive sailing, and develop skills for a lifelong involvement in the sport. The series is designed to both grow the grassroots of the sport and to give talented junior sailors an Olympic pathway. Nearly 50,000 sailors have participated since the program began in 1997.
The Olympic Path
For junior sailors with world-class ambitions, JO events provide an opportunity to compete in large, regional fleets with Olympic-style racing. Sailors who excel at JO events typically progress to the national arena. US SAILING organizes the U.S. Youth Sailing Championship and U.S. Junior Championships in single-, double-, and triple-handed classes in co-ed and women's competition. Some of these events are open to all who enter; others select the fleet via an elimination ladder in each region or by resume. U.S. Olympians of the future typically emerge from the ranks racing at the national youth championships.
Many youth take their first step into competitive sailing at JO events, and some event organizers target their educational and fun elements specifically to the entry-level sailor. The most rapid area of development within the JO series is this grassroots effort: the art of making the sport fun for these new sailors while helping them gain the skills they need to thrive on the water and enjoy the game. The long-term goal is to give these young sailors a foundation they can build on for a lifetime of enjoyment on the water.
Trophies & Prizes
The prize giving ceremony at the end of each JO event is similar to that at the Olympic Games, and class winners step up to the podium to collect Gold, Silver, and Bronze Junior Olympic medals. Events celebrate not only winners, but all those who participate and competitors who exhibit the virtues of sportsmanship. Special fun prizes and sportsmanship awards are presented at many JO events.
A schedule of more than 25 events are planned for venues in the continental United States and Hawaii. Each JO regatta is hosted by a different yacht club or community sailing organization. All events share a common goal, but each host executes those goals in their own unique way. Some organizers put a strong emphasis on activities for entry-level sailors--with special divisions for first-time racers; fun activities such as scavenger hunts and build-a-boat contests; and games for children under 8 years old who are too young to compete. Some highlight skill building, with clinics conducted by intercollegiate coaches, All-American college racers, or even Olympic medallists.
The types of boats and windsurfers sailed at each regatta varies from event to event, but many classes that are popular in junior racing are used at JO events. Boats are generally 8 to 14 feet in length and are manned by one to two sailors. All boats used in JO racing are one-design classes, where the boats are identical in hull shape, rig configuration, and speed. Among the classes that are popular in JO competition are the Optimist, Laser, Byte, Sunfish, El Toro, Club 420 and 29er. The Laser and Laser Radial are the only classes that is used in both Olympic and Junior Olympic competition. Sailors typically travel to JO events with their own boats, but some events make boats available to youth who do no own their own boat.
Sponsors and Organizers
The Junior Olympic Sailing Program is sponsored nationally by West Marine, the nation's largest retailer of recreational and commercial boating supplies and apparel with stores throughout the United States. West Marine has supported the JO program since the program's inception. Gill, one of the world's leading suppliers of technical sailing gear. A new JO national sponsor in 2013, Sperry Top-Sider has been the leading global nautical performance and lifestyle brand since 1935.
Each regatta also attracts its own local sponsors. The JO program is coordinated by US Sailing, the sport's National Governing Body (NGB) located in Portsmouth, R.I. The mission of this volunteer organization is to provide leadership for the sport of sailing in the United States.
Junior Olympic Sailing is only one of the many sports that offer Junior Olympic programs. Junior Olympic competition is coordinated by the NGB of each sport. The first JO programs date back to the late 1970s and some 40 NGBs in the United States run JO programs or events today. Junior Olympics come under the umbrella of the Olympic movement, for each NGB is a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
For More Information
Contact Lee Parks at US SAILING (401-366-3126 or LeeParks@ussailing.org) for general information on the Junior Olympic Sailing Program. Each JO regatta has an event organizer and press contact; to link to the organizer of each event, visit the JO calendar. For a schedule of Junior Olympic events, click here.