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Posts Tagged ‘saving sailing’

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San Diego sailor Christopher Beckwith realized that it’s not US Sailing, or ISAF, or yacht clubs who are responsible for the continuing downslope in sailing across the US.  From his Facebook post spurred on by the same hipster silliness in the story immediately below. 

The current state of sailing in the US is disturbing and our leadership at the top in US Sailing has brought on a “millennial expert” who has less hits than I do on YouTube to show us how it’s done. A non sailor, backwards hat wearing, Fred Durst.

I’m passionate about my sport. I’ve ebbed and flowed with it in my life, as most do. I’ve owned boats big and small. Crewed in boats big and small. Sailed at all levels. The biggest challenge with it, on a personal level is with family. Let’s face it. Sailing, while family friendly, can be somewhat boring in the traditional sense. We lose kids in that boredom and when we bring the wife along to watch the kids, she’s not interested.

For me, I developed my passion from a non sailing family. I grew up on bigger yachts and power boats in the Chicago area. Spending summers on lakes learning how to ski. Primitive tubing with truck tires, swimming in the middle of the lake off the boat. Trips on my grandfathers yacht down the Chicago river. On Lake Michigan. But one day, a neighbor with a Mac Gregor, of all boats, asked me if I wanted to go sailing. I sat on the bow. The low side. Letting my feet drag in the water. I floated on a pool float behind the boat, and was towed. The kids on the boat had fun. The adults sat in the cockpit and had fun.

We boated in the cold. Cheese and wine for adults. Hot chocolate for the kids. Blankets and experienced the adventure of going out on Lake Michigan. As a kid. This was amazing. I had an aunt and uncle who got me a subscription to sail magazine. I saw amazing photography. Some of those photographers, I’m friends with today. People like Daniel Forsterand Ingrid Abery. It’s that cool of a sport.

As I grew up. My parents bought me a sunfish. I started racing. I organized a high school team. I worked with the local yacht club to put to use facilities and boats left over from the recent pan am games. Cappy Capper invited us to our first regatta. We sucked. But. I had fun. I met people my own age who shared a passion for the sport. I was fortunate to continue sailing. And racing. I entered the coast guard and was fortunate enough to sail there, even allowed to GoTo San Diego to work on the 92 America’s Cup because of my experience. I continued racing. But. I was not able to get a non sailing wife and kids that interested in the sport.

I didn’t make it fun. I didn’t make it worth anyone’s time. And that’s my mistake. I was only interested in doing what I saw in the pictures. Racing. That was my passion. It’s still my passion. I messed up. As a sailor committed to growing the sport. I made a mistake. I took the fun out of it for my family and lost three potential sailors. I might of actually deterred them from it altogether with my passion and commitment to my own racing programs.

Oddly. It wasn’t until last year. That I took my son out to sail a new model yacht I had gotten. He’s a freshman in college and has sailed a handful of times on one of our j 24’s or thistles. We sailed the model yacht for a few hours. No racing. Just messing around. Having fun. Long story short. He wanted his own. Funny how that works. Having fun can be additive. Putting pressure on people to do well right out of the gate, where’s the fun in that?

Thankfully we have many amazing photographers to capture the moments. To capture scenes and settings. To remind us and inspire us. But a millennial expert, social media, is not what’s going to grow sailing. Having fun on the water and remembering what it’s all about. That’s what will grow our sport. US Sailing. You made a mistake with your keynote speaker. Someone who only has 100 views is not an expert. It’s a misguided attempt. Millennial aren’t the problem. Those of us that are parents to millennials. We are the problem with why sailing isn’t growing.

January 7th, 2018 by admin

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Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 1.19.23 PMIt seems that club doing their damnedest to ruin racing in San Diego couldn’t even come up with their own burgee.  Why would a club need to appropriate the design of a club established more than half a century before?  Is there really no alternative to ‘red diagonal stripe on dark blue background’ out there?

At least they’re the perfect club to run a bottom-fishing tournament.  Why deal with a failed racing program when you can cater to the much easier demands of heavy-drinking fishermen looking for ling cod and rockfish.


February 22nd, 2017 by admin

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Hobie 20

Thanks in large part to Nicholas Hayes and the movement he began, sailboat racing is on the upswing in hotspots around North America, and while the new face of sailing might not look quite like it did 20 years ago, that ain’t necessarily a bad thing at all.  One of the guys dragging the sport to its new look is young Tim Fitzgerald, and with seemingly boundless energy, enthusiasm, and passion for the sport, the founder of Charleston’s Fort2Battery Race & Party has something new up his sleeve.  Let’s hear from Tim, and you can get in touch with him via the Charleston H20 Fleet website or FB page.

After smoking the Mothies in the 2nd running of the Charleston Fort 2 Battery Race, the growing Hobie 20 fleet’s next stop was the James Island Yacht Club Regatta, where Charleston’s fastest boats race.  The teams’ backgrounds include J24s, Thistles, Lightnings, Optis, 420s, Hobie 16s, and F-16’s (not the boat, the plane), and their 5-6 minute upwind legs while dodging Lightnings, E Scows and Sea Island One Designs was exciting as hell.  At mixed fleet mark roundings you’d look for just a window of daylight, and blast through the hole like Emmit Smith on crack!

In just 14 months, while most local fleets held even or lost a few boats to the war of attrition, the local H20 fleet went from zero to 7 boats locally, with two more on the way. With the exception of the J24, we are now the largest home-based fleet over 20ft in Charleston.  This weekend we had 2 female drivers who led races, 5 coed teams (of 8), and 40% of the sailors were college age or younger, every one of them lit up with excitement and passion.

3 hobie 20s_c o Sam ZankelPeople are so excited here! To give you an example- boats are being bought sight-unseen, up to 14 hours away, and by sailors with near ZERO catamaran experience.  One junior sailor who had nearly left the sport last year for lacrosse and basketball told me that last Saturday’s racing was “a 9.5 out of 10, my favorite sailing day ever”. He can’t wait to race again, and since the regatta, has been working with his dad after school to dial in their boat.  One of the three “Guest Drivers” has already bought their own boat, and right now we have two more people we have to find boats for.

Part of the fleet’s early success comes from our experience with kiteboarding. It’s so much fun that if some other people show up, great.  If not, it’s still the most fun you can have with two free hours.  Going super-fast, getting fire-hosed with water in the face, and wiping out occasionally is an absolute blast. Fleet co-founder Greg Walters said after the event “All three of my kids raced this weekend, I got to sail with two of them, and i’ve never had more fun racing a sailboat.”

Ask yourself- When is the last time your kid, or a friendly non-sailor begged you to go “fun sailing” with them in 10-15kts on your raceboat? Or the last time you reached out for crew and had to turn people away due to the large response?  If the answer took some thought, you may be trying to push the rock uphill.  There can be a better way.

High Performance Sailing and constantly evolving ways of sharing it with the world are unquestionably attracting new people, spectators and sponsors all the way from the America’s Cup and VOR, to the 7000 people who watched the Fort 2 Battery Race via Sailing Anarchy’s live stream.  Whether we like it or not, the environment that we sail in has changed over the last fifty years.  As a result, the 50-year old model that many areas and clubs continue to operate under is no longer bringing in new people and retaining existing ones.

It’s becoming more important than ever for sailing to be inherently fun.  I am not suggesting that we load up novices into aussie-18’s and turn them loose, or have cake and ice cream after every race, but it is obvious that the iphone and X box have raised the level of excitement needed to capture young people’s attention.

In Charleston, the Hobie 20 was the answer. Having a ready supply of used boats at reasonable prices in a spot with a great beach launching club and reliable, consistent breeze (and the ability to outperform the big currents) makes this boat the coolest starter fleet boat in the history of Charleston.   Starting from scratch, we designed our fleet to re-engage and keep those kids who leave sailing because they can no longer fit under an opti boom and don’t like bailing out their boat with a juice jug. We also designed it for the guys who just want to stand the rig up and haul ass on a weeknight. Frequently heard in the group is “I didnt buy this boat to race windward/leewards and worry about tactics.  I bought it to haul ass and have fun.”

High speed, ease of use, learning, and minimal pain-in-the-ass (PITA) factor are the keys.  If you’re having trouble attracting new sailors, try going faster.

July 15th, 2015 by admin


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