Buck Up and Join

/SW/ editor Dave Reed explores why a U.S. Sailing membership is so important to him and the sailing community. The "Editor's Letter" from our May 2008 issue

dave reed headshot

As I write this, a sealed envelope with a US SAILING logo on the upper left corner sits at the bottom of a pile of unopened mail. It's been there for weeks. I know what's inside-another plea for my membership dues. It's not that I'm intentionally ignoring it, I simply haven't gotten to it. Or maybe, deep in my psyche, I was wondering whether I really needed to spend the $60 to belong in the first place. However, come next January when our governing body makes good on its rule requiring membership for helmsmen who race (www.sailingworld.com/capron), I will never have to wonder again. As long as I'm driving, I will be required to be a member, and I'm all for it.

After discussing the membership requirement at length with US SAILING president Jim Capron, it was clear to me why I should be a member. At the very least, I owe it to the organization after having mooched off the system during the years I wasn't a member. All those times I sat in protest hearings and enjoyed all those superb races without paying a dime to those who provide the basic services and maintain the standards we expect when we pay our regatta entry fees.

Mandatory membership makes perfect sense, actually. The money I give to the one and only domestic organization charged with organizing my sport is an investment in assuring my experience on the water is a good one. To nurture the sport requires money; there's no way around it. If you don't support it, you have no place demanding better services. Capron perhaps says it best in my interview with him in this issue. He has never heard any good reason not to join US SAILING. So it stands to reason, he says, that there's no difference between why you should join and why you must join.

The problem is no one likes to be told they have to do something. But Capron is right. If I want to empower someone to look after my sport (because I don't have the time nor the desire to do it myself) then I should join. And this shouldn't apply only to owners and helmsmen. This goes for everyone of you sitting on the rail. If you're part of a race team, and if you want a quality race, regatta, and party, contribute to the cause. It's simply wrong to put the onus on your boat's owner who has invested so much already.

I mainly crew, but I still have a lot of reasons for ponying up my $60. My local race committee is good, but I want them to be really good. I know the average age of my race committee is somewhere around retirement age, and I want some young blood to be trained to run my next class championship. I want the best resources possible for that cranky old judge hearing my case for room at the mark, and I want their judgment to be swift and spot-on so I can get on with it and get back to the party. I want a trained and certified instructor to give my kids the best possible experience on the water. I want a larger pool of trained umpires available for a local weeknight match racing or team race series.

And how about you handicap sailors out there? Who do you think is helping your cause along on a daily basis? Thanks to the guys crunching numbers and VPPs behind the scenes of US SAILING's offshore office, my buddy's PHRF fleet is better off today than it was last year. That didn't happen by itself.

I know the organization is less than perfect, and they know this, too, but unless I give them the means to improve, the quality of my next race won't get any better. Another simplistic way I look at it is this: Before the year is out, I will have sailed at least 60 individual races, and as far as I'm concerned, $1.00 a race is a small price to pay for a quality day on the water. I can be part of the movement to push the sport to a better place, or I can sit by and watch it flounder. My renewal check is going in today.

-Dave Reed