Balance is the Theme at US SAILING Meetings

The spring meeting of the U.S. Sailing Association was an unlikely high-altitude gathering in of all places, Colorado Springs, home of a major U.S. Olympic Committee training center. From this lofty vantage point, a planning session produced strategic objectives for the association’s executive committee that underscored the organization’s long-term shift toward balancing its emphasis on competitive and non-competitive sailing. An increasingly diverse cadre of committee members attending the meetings also represented US SAILING’s continuing shift toward being more inclusive.

A proposal was put in motion to create a Cruising Council to provide representation for cruising sailors including a board of directors’ seat. The leaders of the National Women’s Sailing Association continued talks with the US SAILING Women’s Sailing Committee on integrating the broad-based efforts of the former with the competition focus of the latter. Exploration also began on how to further expose the work of the Safety at Sea Committee and to improve and expand on the Cruising World/US SAILING Safety at Sea Seminars, which are sponsored by West Marine.

At the same time the recent move to require more high-level athlete/sailors on all committees of US SAILING, including board and executive committee, has had the noticeable effect of bringing the elite sailors including Mark Reynolds, John Lovell, Louise Gleason, Hal Haenel, and Dean Brenner into prominent positions. A voluntary registration system for all sailors has been established to define Category A to C levels of accomplishment (

Further underscoring the cultural changes in progress at US SAILING was my informal “blue blazer index” reading at the first board meeting. Only about 12 percent of the 40 or so directors on hand were wearing any blazers at all, and only half of those were wearing ties.

Some things haven’t changed. The organization lost about a quarter million dollars last year--mostly after accepting changes suggested by its auditor’s annual report. Its leaders have initiated a review of the organizational structure with an intent to streamline the sprawling committee structure. And ‘better communication of what US SAILING does for sailors” has been identified as a top priority, and a new committee formed to work on the problem.

But there were several signs of progress and a fundamentally strong organization. A number of initiatives set in motion last fall by Bill Placke, who was the interim executive director at the time, are making substantive improvements in the association’s software and systems for such critical things as management of its membership database and accounting. And after only three months on the job, the new executive director, Nick Craw, has begun instilling confidence among the volunteers and improving staff morale and performance.

The Offshore office’s refinement and promotion of its VPP-based Americap rating system is paying off as more major race organizers are adopting it, and technical advances in web-based programs look promising--such as the soon-to-be-launched SailRater, a new “what-will-this-do-to-my-rating?” program.

The Olympic Sailing Committee reported progress on the development of the U.S. Sailing Team, and it received good marks from sailors I spoke to for not only its development plans and but also its willingness to provide athletes with a transparent view of how it spends the money it has and why.

On the sponsorship front, consistent supporters Rolex Watch U.S.A. and Vanguard are fully onboard this year, and a Walt Disney Co. sponsorship was announced for the Youth Championships in San Diego. A forthcoming larger sponsorship for another event was mentioned, and a multi-year sponsorship of the U.S. Sailing Team by Sperry was also announced.