Working Together to Promote Sailing

Published on May 28th, 2015

by John Arndt, Summer Sailstice founder
There are numerous things that can and are being done to create new sailors with fun, creative sailing programs. And when I tour the waterfront, I see much of the prescription in place – great programs, great boats, numerous accessible facilities, amazingly inexpensive community programs, and dedicated enthusiastic instructors inspiring people of all ages with really fun sailing opportunities.

While there’s always room for improvement, I contend one of the biggest challenges to be addressed is in the promotion of these services. Despite all the incredible programs available to the public, much of the non-sailing world still has a lot of misperceptions about accessibility.

Cost is not the barrier. In the San Francisco Bay area where I live, we have Cal Sailing Club which you can join for $99 for 3 months and you can sail every day – about $1/day. On Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, the public can rent a Sunfish for $12/hour or a catamaran for $20/hour within walking distance of downtown office and apartment buildings. I also know that Community Boating Boston has a full year membership for $289.

There are hundreds of similar opportunities across North America. Of course we also know that most sailors sail for free – they crew on other people’s boats. There are millions more sailors than there are sailboats. So access and cost are not the hurdle; promotion is the bigger challenge.

In this information over-saturated world, it is hard for all these low-budget community sailing facilities to be truly visible. Soccer, basketball, softball, Little League and so many other recreational activities are practiced in downtown parks or right outside on the school playground. Kids begin many of these activities in pre-school or elementary school. While sailing can be very close and very inexpensive, it is overshadowed by the convenience and visibility of other activities.

This was part of the motivation for launching Summer Sailstice in 2001. If we could select one weekend a year, at the start of the peak sailing season, sailors can collectively do something ‘together’ to promote sailing. We don’t need to agree on a rating rule, the right training dinghy, or the right program format. We all just need to agree that sailing is great and more people need to know what we have to offer and how truly fun and accessible sailing is.

So let’s show off what we’ve already got. This year’s event is the 15th annual and will be held the weekend of June 20-21. There are dozens of events and individuals already signed up on the Summer Sailstice website. By signing up you help showcase what you have to offer, and by teaming up with the rest of the sailing community, we’ll all be leveraging each other’s efforts to do something bigger than out local program – we’re promoting all of sailing.

Two regions have a regional collaboration on Summer Sailstice. Ontario Sailing has organized dozens of sailing (and rowing) programs on Summer Sailstice weekend to try sailing with a ‘Get Out On The Water‘ program. In Northern California, is also organizing many organizations to publicize and promote their sailing programs.

The list of events and programs currently engaged in Summer Sailstice is as diverse as sailing itself. It isn’t promoting one model of sailing but gives everyone the opportunity to promote their niche within sailing while contributing to the big picture of promoting all of sailing. Visit the event site,, and you’ll see the range.

You’ll see community sailing, commercial sailing schools, regattas, tall ships, the Marion Bermuda Race and the Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan. It is this assortment of options that all contribute to the multidimensional tapestry that is sailing. An image I imagine for Summer Sailstice is that it’s like a Christmas tree and the wide variety of events, boats and people are the ornaments people add to make it look magnificent.

There may be improvements we can make in boats, programs, techniques, but overall we know sailing is awesome and we have great organizations doing a fantastic job teaching and introducing new sailors all the time. Together we need to find a way of breaking through the media noise and misperceptions about sailing and bring attention to all the great work currently being done.

Not far down the road from the baseball diamond, the soccer field and all your other town recreational opportunities, there’s likely an inexpensive, easily accessible community sailing program staffed with smiling, enthusiastic sailing in structures ready to take anyone out for a sail.

We’ll continuously work to improve what we do but whatever your program has going on the weekend of June 20-21, put it on the event page and then work with the rest of the sailing community to promote, promote, promote what we already have.

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