Malibu Brothers Take on the Sailing World

Malibu sailor and eighth grader Grant Janov on a 29er, along with racing partner Kieran Shocklee.

A trio of Malibu brothers is making waves on a national level, literally and figuratively, in the sport of sailing. 

The Janov brothers — Ryan, 16; Grant, 14; and Jordan, 10 — just returned from an international regatta, all with bragging rights. The Janov family, which includes dad Jay and mom Heather, just returned from the Orange Bowl Regatta in Miami, Florida, where each child placed well in their individual fleets.

Ryan, a junior at Malibu High School, sails by himself in a 14-foot-long laser boat and came in 34th out of 85 other boats, ranking him in the coveted Gold Fleet category — that is the highest rank for his age range, 18 and under. Grant, an eighth grader at Malibu Middle School who sails a boat called a 29er with 14-year-old partner Keiran Shocklee of Marina Del Rey, came in 10th out of 20 boats — an achievement, considering he sails against adults with no age category and has only been competing in his difficult-to-maneuver 15-foot-wide boat for just six months. This was only his third regatta. And youngest brother Jordan, who was featured in The Malibu Times last year, had a big victory in the Optimist boat category, coming in 24th out of 260 boats. Jordan won his age category White Fleet (10 and under) far ahead of the others. The Webster Elementary fifth grader, who skippers his 8-foot-long boat solo, also achieved Gold Fleet status.

The boys spent five days on the water in Biscayne Bay from 7:30 in the morning until 5 o’clock in the evening practicing and competing. Heather and Jay were able to watch their young sailors from an RIB, or rigid inflatable boat, out on the racecourse two miles off shore. 

“We especially wanted to charter a boat to watch the kids, because Grant’s boat can be quite dangerous. We spent a lot of our time on the 29er course. They kept flipping and once they righted the boat it would flip again. It’s exhausting for them. You want to be careful that the kids have enough energy to continue to sail,” Heather said.

Overturned sailboats are par for the course and the boys have to right them by themselves. 

“There’s a rudder in the back and a center board,” Ryan explained. “When you flip, you put all your weight on that, then the boat turns up like it’s sideways and then it turns back up and you have to pull it in, get back in the boat and then you need to make sure that it doesn’t flip again. That can happen because you’re not really moving. These boats aren’t stable when you’re not moving.” 

That’s especially true of Grant’s 29er. It’s wider than other boats, explained the teen. 

“It’s got a flat bottom and wings for better performance,” Grant said. “It makes it difficult to flip the boat back up. It’s lifting up water too. It’s challenging. When the boat stops, the stern sinks. It’s very unstable. You have to be moving the whole time.” 

Speaking of flipping, youngest brother Jordan explained, “My boat is stable because it’s smaller. But the bad thing about it is that it fills up with water. It sinks. It’s like a bathtub.” The youngster then uses a bailer to scoop up and bail water while he’s still racing. 

Ryan detailed the last day of the regatta in Gold Fleet with the best of the sailors.

“It started out really windy,” he recalled. “I actually flipped on my way out to the racecourse, but it was fun.” 

Competing against seasoned sailors, Grant added, “It was a difficult fleet because it wasn’t just a youth regatta. Adults stronger than I am and smarter than I am were racing against us. We held our own pretty nicely for the first few days, but we struggled on the last day. Downwind, this boat is incredibly fast. Right after we finished a race, we flipped and I hit my foot hard, resulting in a broken toe.”

Grant’s next big regatta will be this summer’s Open Worlds Regatta in Long Beach. Ryan will spend much of the summer racing his laser in Vancouver and Jordan, who qualified to be on the U.S. development team for Optimist boats, will train for national team trials this May in New Jersey. Because of his standing, he’s been invited to race in Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. He turns 11 later this month.