The drama within the management of the US Olympic sailing program has exposed the real flaw within the structure of US Sailing.

The Board restructuring about 10 years ago and the clear emphasis on promoting all things training over yacht racing now requires a wholesale change of some sort. Those who say the Sailing Team should be spun off are wrong, primarily because the only reason US Sailing is the congressionally approved NGB for the sport is precisely because of the Olympics.

Two things need to happen, first, the entire Training division needs to be spun off into a wholly-owned for-profit subsidiary of US Sailing, and moved to its own facility in a warm weather place where you could actually teach sailing lessons instead of just being a licensing entity. There is precedent for this structure as that is how the US Professional Sailing Association was set up in the mid-80s. The second thing that needs to happen is that given the CEO knows nothing about yacht racing, there needs to be a Director of Yacht Racing who has knowledge, experience, and relationships within the wide spectrum of the sport. What we have now is the equivalent as if the Professional Ski Instructors of America running the US Ski Team.

There is an abject lack of leadership and accountability from the President and the CEO. I do not know either of these people, and that’s because they make almost no attempt to become part of the family of racing sailors in the US. That neither of them has come front and center during this time of crisis speaks to their inability to provide the necessary leadership to right the US Sailing ship, Olympic or otherwise.

Issuing an unattributed, typical too many words without saying much at all, bland, boring corporate PR-speak press release had exactly the opposite effect of your intention. The President let the former ExDir of the Olympic Sailing Team kick the organization’s ass on the way out the door, thereby controlling the narrative. Good luck regaining the tiny semblance of credibility you had. It did not have to happen this way for either side.

The Sailing team issues will sort themselves out soon enough. I have spoken with several Board members in the last few days, and I am confident that the young people who are leading the field triage will insure that the current sailing team members will have all the support they had expected throughout the year. Maybe best of all out of this chaos is that I see some young Board members who will lead the sport into the future. But these young Board members cannot lead the sport of yacht racing if they have the burden of managing things that have no bearing whatsoever on racing.

Riddle me this, riddler: If US Sailing is the NGB of yacht racing, and the Olympics are the very reason for their existence, why is there currently no listing at all on the organization’s website for the members of the Olympic Sailing Committee? In fact, there is no longer even a link to that committee on the National Governing Body website.

US Sailing wants to promote “diversity, equity and inclusion”, except when it comes to former members of US Sailing. The legendary boat builder and Shipwright for the US Sailing Team, Carl Eichenlaub, took me to my first USYRU meeting in 1986, saying I should get involved, so I did. For 10 years I went to every meeting and spent hundreds of hours on various committees over the years. When the organizational structure changed, it eliminated a large chunk of institutional memory.

The leadership of US Sailing does not like Sailing Anarchy (and has never liked SA) because there is too much criticism and negativity. This is a failure of their marketing efforts, they do not seem to realize the denizens of the SA forums, many like me, spent considerable time helping the organization, and/or the sport, and we were told to go away, so we did. All many of us want to do is help, but the President and CEO seem totally uninterested in recapturing lapsed members and allowing for them to have meaningful input.

Complain all you want about SA, and Ehman’s show, but you screwed up so badly that now even Scuttlebutt, who never met a US Sailing press release he didn’t gush glowingly over, has turned against you. The most ridiculous part of US Sailing’s resistance to engaging with SA is that the guy who controls the home page is about as liberal as they come and would be your best way to promote DEI within the yacht racing community.

But no, you work to exclude anyone that says even a hint of anything negative rather than listen to those with decades of history with the organization and sport. Why should we be members of what is now in effect a private company with a primary business of selling learn-to-sail licenses? ASA is a far better business model for those who want to learn to sail, as is Steve Colgate’s school.

USYRU used to be an organization that enabled the common competitive standards of the sport by bringing together people from all over the country who worked collectively to make the sport of yacht racing better. Now, it is all staff driven, with the primary purpose being to sell more memberships and sailing school licenses.

US Sailing as it stands today is a necessary but annoying inconvenience for racing sailors led by two guys who avoid taking the helm when the weather gets rough. Like Gen. Patton said, “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way”. President Jepsen, you are not providing the necessary leadership for the sport of yacht racing, so are you going to follow, or get out of the way?

Peter Huston

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