dave reed headshot
With bad economic news bombarding us every day it’s obvious we’re heading toward different times. But as you may have gathered by now, I am an eternal optimist, a Pisces, a dreamer. I’m one of those individuals that hears today’s buzzword-recession-and thinks to myself, “Things may be bad, but they will get better.” I’m also a believer in cycles, and checks and balances, and from my rose-colored, polarized sunglasses, I firmly believe our sport will remain vibrant and strong, no matter how deep and long this recession goes. It just won’t be the same as it was yesterday. It will be better.
The boat building industry is truly suffering (you can see for yourself by downloading our 2009 The Sailing Market State of the Industry report, available at www.sailingworld.com/0904report), but the fact that we’re buying fewer boats doesn’t mean that everyone will simply stop sailing. Yes, there will be changes in our habits; maybe we’ll buy fewer new sails and make that genoa last another season. But hey, if your genoa is old, so is the other guy’s. Maybe this year you’ll apply your own bottom paint (we did last year and it came out superbly) rather than sending the boat off to the speed shop. Perhaps you’ll replace one halyard instead of all of them. The list goes on, but the point is we’ll spend our precious dollars on what we need, rather than what we want. But are you really going to cut back on your sailing? I won’t.
In these pages, we’ve always advocated that, in order to get better, we have to leave our local fleet every so often, step outside our comfort zone, and test ourselves against other teams. But for the next few years, that will have to change. It may be time for us to stay put, improving our fleet, getting our hands dirty on the race management side, or starting up a program to get more junior sailors and displaced owners and crews out on the water for our twilight and weekend races. We can provide incentives to those who do want to travel during the season, as our local J/24 fleet does, by giving average points to any boat that misses a fleet race for an out-of-town regatta. We have to be creative and simplify the racing experience as much as possible.
I was recently reminded of the importance of this when talking to veteran America’s Cup sailor Wally Henry, who contributed a column in our last issue. Henry, like hundreds of other pro sailors, is facing a bleak picture. His phone isn’t exactly ringing of late, so he’s riding his silver lining, spending more time with his 10-month-old daughter and rediscovering the deep grass roots of our sport. He’s coaching more PHRF teams and getting out on the water with San Diego’s Old Farts Racing Circuit.
This circuit, he tells me, consists of silver-haired old timers that meet every Wednesday at 1 p.m., year round. For more than 40 years they’ve been at this sailing equivalent of a pick-up league. There’s no race committee, no set marks, no waiting. Show up with what you’ve got and have at it. Dennis Conner joins in once in a while, but for the most part, these are salt-in-the-blood sailors of yesterday, doing what they love until the day they die.
“These guys truly live for their Wednesday afternoons,” says Henry. “And for me, after all the America’s Cup sailing, and all of that I’ve done, it’s just incredible to savor sailing again.”
So maybe this is what will come out of all this recession business; you and I, and all the pros and wanna-be pros expecting a paycheck every time they go sailing, will come back to what matters most: day or night, we must all go sailing, simply for the love of it. That’s our stimulus.