An Action Plan for Sailing
An Action Plan for Sailing
How we can push the sport of sailing forward? I've been asking the question a lot lately, and teh responses are hardly surprising. From the Jobson Report from our May 2010 issue
Sailing has numerous strengths including passionate, lifelong participants, deep-seated traditions, dedicated volunteers, established and influential yacht clubs, innovative equipment and boat manufacturers, and a strong network of organizations to somehow make it all work. In the first six months of my presidency at US SAILING (an undertaking of unimaginable proportions), I’ve reached out to sailors across the country to learn what sailing must do to attract more participants and help the sport run more easily. At a US SAILING Board of Directors’ retreat in Houston in February, and later at a “Town Hall” style session in Rhode Island in March, many ideas were put forth on how to take sailing into the future. From these sessions, it’s clear our sport continues to face many challenges.
Getting greater visibility for sailing is vitally important. The excitement and appeal of our sport seems to get lost with the overload of information that bombards all of us every day. As a sport, it’s difficult to stand out, but there are many tools available to generate more attention. The Internet is a good start to broaden our presence and entry points. US SAILING is improving its website for easy access to information for sailors and non-sailors alike. This is an ongoing process. Every sailing organization should make their website a priority; when someone curious about the sport searches “sailing” on the Internet, the virtual path should easily lead them to the real thing. One of the most compelling sailing sites for current sailors I’ve recently visited is CleverPig.org. The goal of this site is to help aspiring young sailors competing in national and international competition.
Although newspapers are struggling, I’m finding they are more open to publishing news when the right information is provided to them. Event organizers should make results available. A good start is to request a meeting with your local newspaper’s staff. At the pitch, bring pictures, sample articles, and the resumes of prominent sailors to help make your case.
Every regatta can promote itself with video reports on the web. Editing is relatively easy these days. When filming, I encourage producing quality material along with compelling interviews. This will attract more viewers and the material will be a valuable edition to a club’s archives.
The yacht club is the core institution in sailing. Many clubs are challenged with declining rosters, lower participation on the water, and aging facilities. In an effort to enhance the viability of yacht clubs, US SAILING is inviting every club in the United States to a National Yacht Club Leadership Summit. This event is scheduled for April 2 to 3, 2011, in Chicago. Speakers and panel discussions will cover many topics, including updating a mission statement, writing a long-range plan, funding a club renovation, acquiring a fleet of club-owned boats, managing junior and adult instruction, creating a signature regatta, recruiting young members, working with the local community, and many other ideas. Ted Turner is scheduled to be the keynote speaker.
Most clubs have an aging roster of members. In the United States, junior sailing is vibrant. From Opti training through collegiate sailing there is a tremendous amount of activity. But immediately after graduating, many of these sailors disappear from the sport for too long. Every yacht club should make recruiting young members a high priority. Sometimes, however, I wonder if over assertive parents and coaches are pushing many young sailors away. In recent years, there’s been too much emphasis on becoming a professional sailor, something that youth sailors are picking up on. We need to promote the Corinthian aspect of our sport instead.