An Interview with President Rosekrans

The US SAILING president, one year later

Dave Rosekrans, a Thistle sailor from Ohio’s Cowan Lake, has been president of US SAILING for a year. Rosekrans, who retired after a long career with Proctor & Gamble, faces many challenges in leading the sport’s national governing body. He discussed them recently with Editor At Large Gary Jobson.

What are US SAILING’s priorities?

In setting priorities we discovered that communications was our single biggest problem. We started two things. The first was a direct communication to sailors called e-USSAILING that now goes out to over 10,000 sailors. Anyone can sign up online at our website. Secondly, we created an opportunity for sailors to write to me, and I’ll personally answer any question. If it’s a general interest question, we’ll publish it in "the Skippers’ Meeting" on our web page. We don’t duck the hard questions.

Do you get good questions?

They vary from cussing at me to some very profound thinking.

How challenging is your job?

The challenge has been much greater than I expected. Facing significant financial problems, we passed a resolution at the last General Meeting that allowed us to increase our line of credit by $600,000. We’ve since paid off any loans we had, but that kind of cost-cutting effort can be very difficult and painful.

Does US SAILING put too much into the Olympics?

No membership money goes toward the Olympics. The Olympics are funded and operated in a budget separate from the US SAILING account with money that comes from the USOC.

Is the focus on advertising and amateur eligibility complicating our sport?

Unequivocally yes. But as soon as a rule is even considered, most sailors in the country hear about it, and sometimes these things are fairly unreasonable in their early stages. In most cases, like the advertising code, eligibility code, and anti-doping rule, we’ve worked with the agencies involved and managed to resolve the problems.

Is doping really an issue in sailing?

It could’ve been, but we worked with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to limit the application of testing under the rules strictly to Olympic sailors.

Speaking of the rules, are people able to use them better?

This isn’t going to be a popular comment. People are applying the rules in two different ways. We have an elite level of application where people understand the nuances, and then there’s club racing where they follow a one-page summary of the rules.

How are relations with ISAF?

I’ve worked hard to build our relationship with ISAF. President Paul Henderson’s a strong leader, and I’ve found that he loves to work with us rather than in opposition. He came to our last meeting and was warmly received. I believe our sailors there ended up really appreciating what ISAF has to do.

US SAILING is a big operation. Is it trying to do too many things?

We’re an unusual organization in that we’re truly an umbrella for this sport. We have 67 boards, committees, and working parties that deal with the various aspects of sailing. My background is with a big company with many, many brands, and I don’t see this as much different.

How much time are you spending on US SAILING activities?

I spend about 8 to 12 hours a day on the average, six days a week except when I go sailing. I have an absolute rule that I won’t miss my own personal sailing for US SAILING business.

What are your goals for the next two years?

My biggest hope is that the image of US SAILING will be untarnished, and it will be a proud organization that people will want to join. Our membership will grow, and we’ll truly represent all the segments of sailing.

Any other problems?

One of my biggest concerns is the decline of the number of yacht clubs, sailing clubs, and sailing organizations. Based on some of our records, we think there were about 1,300 to 1,700 organizations seven years ago. Today we have 650 clubs as members of US SAILING, and we know that most of the losses--we called the clubs--are because they’ve actually gone away. We don’t just have clubs that are dropping out of US SAILING, but clubs that no longer exist. This is reducing access to sailing, particularly in smaller boats.

But at the Annapolis YC, we have a four-year waiting list.

Right. That isn’t unusual for a larger, more dynamic big-boat club, but at Mentor Harbor, where I was recently for the Snipe Junior Worlds, one-design racing has died off. They used to have huge fleets and now there are only a few fleets. In the Midwest, many smaller clubs have stopped sailing.

How can we turn that trend around?

There’s no easy answer. It’s just going to take hard work and exposing youth to the excitement of sailing and giving them opportunities. I’m visiting with clubs and encouraging them to have adult education programs. It’s going to take effort in many, many areas.