Open Drawers

We're celebrating our 50th Anniversary in 2012 by opening up our archives. "Editor's Letter" from our January/February 2012 issue.

Sailing World

From the Archives Logo

In celebration of our 50th Anniversary, we're opening up our archives and back issues. Find more from our vault.

Sailing World's offices occupy the second floor of an ordinary brick-and-mortar building in Middletown, R.I. Half models and oversized posters of past covers accent the maze of faded blue cubicle walls and navy blue filing cabinets. Inside the latter are hanging folders bulging with our sport's captivating history. We have drawers, identified by some past editor's chicken scratch, labeled "Famous People," "Famous Boats," "Events," and my all-time favorite, "Misc."

I walk past these drawers at least 10 times a day. Rarely does it occur to me to stop and linger. Only when the odd Internet search fails, might I roll one open hoping to unearth a gem. It might be a picture: black and white, with grease-pencil crop marks and a hand-written caption scribbled on the back. It might be one of the hundreds of tattered envelopes bursting with slides and early CD-ROMS. Maybe what I’m looking for can be found in the press releases, official event documents, newspaper clippings, class newsletters, and brochures of boats and equipment long obsolete. Thankfully, our previous editors had the foresight to file most everything that crossed their desks.

On the rare occasion the contents of these drawers do see the light of day, they’re instantly entrancing. Once you pull something, it’s impossible to not get sidetracked. It’s an addictive diversion, as is paging through any one of the nearly 600 issues from this magazine’s 50-year history. When something in these pages grabs my attention—be it a story or an advertisement—it’s easy to see that as much as the sport has changed, its essence remains the same. The same is true of the magazine. It’s always been about the people, the places, the races won and lost, the sharing of knowledge.

But as I’ve journeyed through the drawers in preparation for our 50th Anniversary run as the “magazine of sailboat racing,” as our first publisher Knowles Pittman coined in 1962, I wonder about the next person tasked with building an anniversary issue 50 years from now (yes, I suspect we’ll still be around in some fashion). With the evolution to digital media, we’re losing the physical connection to our past. Tangible printed images and carefully crafted narratives have been replaced by hard drives of JPEGs, and blogs, both of which will either fail or fade into obscurity.

But it’s not just our present we’re losing, either. In my search for photos from the inaugural 1988 Audi Key West Race Week for this issue I reconnected with an aging, but still practicing, photojournalist in Connecticut. I gasped when he told me over the phone, “Funny you should ask for them. I just put a bunch of Key West stuff in the trash . . . I didn’t think anyone would care for it nowadays.”

I’d like to think I saved a few years of Race Week history when I asked him to fish the photos out of the garbage can.

Which brings me to our golden milestone. To mark our anniversary and share the history of all things performance sailing, throughout the year we’ll be digging deep into our archives, bringing many of these treasures to you in these pages, and online at sailingworld.com and Facebook. So join us as we look back. For those of you who’ve been with us for the long haul, we thank you. And if you’re just joining us for 50 more, welcome. The drawers are now open.