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All About Sailboat Racing

June 4, 2002

Over the last four decades, Sailing World has left in its wake more than 400 issues devoted to sailboat racing. This month, in our 40th Anniversary issue, I’m inclined to reflect on the process and the content, and how the magazine has survived and prospered. As usual our editorial staff has experienced the fun, the frustrations, and ultimately the satisfaction of putting together an issue for sailboat racing enthusiasts. As in a race, it hasn’t turned out quite the way we expected, but we’ve made some discoveries along the way.

For example, after assigning Electronics Editor Ed Sherman a story on the history of race-boat electronic gear over our publishing timespan, we quickly realized that the term “racing electronics” was an oxymoron in 1962. It’s hard to imagine it now, but that was part of the appeal of bluewater racing in the ’60s. Many of you no doubt experienced the shift.

By contrast, when we decided to republish a group of classic instructional stories, we found that yesterday’s expertise still applied in most areas. Tom Whidden’s 1985 helmsmanship story and Peter Barrett’s 1965 piece on the importance of desire are perfect examples, although Barrett’s text certainly evokes an earlier era.

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When we turned the clock back to look at how Bruce Farr’s first keelboat came into being we gained a strong sense of a by-gone period, when small, home-built ocean racers often made an impact. And in hearing how Ted Turner remembers his victory in the 1979 Fastnet, we felt the suddenness and scale of the storm that changed our thinking on sailboat design and both the equipment and techniques of managing our safety.

While editing this issue, we had a chance to visit with former publisher George Eddy, who was a key part of the magazine from 1968 to 1989. We reviewed the magazine’s five name changes (from One-Design Yachtsman to Sailing World) and its changes in ownership. We relived the movement of its offices from Chicago–when Knowles Pittman and Bruce Kirby were at the helm–to Connecticut–where they were succeeded by Major Hall and Mark Smith. About the time Eddy retired, we moved to Rhode Island under publisher John Southam and, more recently, Sally Helme.

As the editor for the last 18 years, I’ve been lucky to find myself teamed up with dozens of fellow editors and hundreds of writers, photographers, and illustrators. We’ve always tried to maintain the original mission of the magazine, which is both to tell good stories about sailboat racing and also to offer ideas on how you, the reader, can get more out of your participation in the sport. At the same time, as founding editor Pittman wrote in our first issue, we intend to “publish a magazine which may truly make contributions to the sport.” As Pittman also did, I’d like to thank our advertisers for supporting sailboat racing and Sailing World–many bought extra pages this month to highlight the pivotal moments in their company histories.

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But the biggest thank you goes to you, our reader. Your enthusiasm for sailboat racing brings us together on the water and in these pages. We wrote a special tribute to you this month–with help from some of you–to tell the essential truth about what compels us all to race. We hope you enjoy what we’ve created, and we’ll see you out on the racecourse soon.

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