we are the problem

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.