I attended US Sailing’s “Sailing Leadership Forum” in San Diego in early February. I know, I know – San Diego in February, but we on the Flag just keep giving and giving to Storm Trysail. This was the second time I attended this conference and I really must compliment US Sailing on the quality of the program. The plenary and breakout sessions were topical and informative and the chance to network with leaders in the sport is really valuable.
The conference started as a “best practices” meeting for community sailing organizations and that energy and grass roots vibe continued to characterize the Forum. One certainly does not feel any “demise” of our sport among that group of professionals and volunteers. It is very refreshing and I came away energized to focus anew on building participation offshore.
A consistent theme at the conference was building participation in sailing through novel formats such as semi-private clubs and through traditional community sailing programs. There was an interesting plenary session led by executives of the PGA of America; an organization and sport with similar strengths and challenges to sailing. The Chief Diversity Officer of the PGA offered a concise and useful description of the “D, E, I” rubric: Diversity being the invitation to a dance, Inclusion, being asked to dance and Equity being the ability to choose some of the music. The PGA offered this and other important tools to develop authentic outreach to new participants and they are important for Storm Trysail to consider.
Closer to home, the mixed-gender offshore discipline for the 2024 Olympics enjoyed a lot of attention and discussion. I had the opportunity for an extended conversation with JJ Fetter, Vice Chair of US Sailing’s Olympic Committee about the discipline, short handed offshore sailing in general, and Storm Trysail’s unique position to advise on matters offshore. We also touched on Storm Trysail’s involvement with Rich Wilson’s Collegiate Offshore Sailing Circuit and its fleet of 10 Figaro 2s. We did not lay out any specific plan but did establish a direct line of communication as STC and COSC best figure out how we can help the US win gold in this exciting new discipline and thereby increase American participation in racing offshore.
Generally, US Sailing is working hard to find the right formula for success in Olympic Sailing for the States. It is looking to models used by other successful programs, such as the UK’s, while remaining cognizant of the US’s unique challenges such as the character of Junior, Scholastic and Colligate sailing programs. The award of the 2028 Games to Los Angeles and the sailing venue at Long Beach seems to offer a powerful focal point for US Olympic development.
I also took the opportunity to speak with various leaders at US Sailing, both staff and volunteer, about Storm Trysail’s concern regarding the rating rule landscape here in the States and what we perceive to be under weight focus on offshore sailing in general. US Sailing is thoughtfully working to fill the vacant Chair of the Offshore Committee and add members. I am comfortable that our MNA recognizes the opportunities around offshore for the organization and I am hopeful that we will enjoy a more robust working relationship in the future. Our collaboration on Safety at Sea, particularly in the last couple of years, has laid a solid foundation for cooperation in other areas.
Overall it was a very productive and pleasant few days, and it was truly an honor to represent the Storm Trysail Club