Shift the Focus to the Corinthian Team

Published on January 31st, 2016

by Wally Cross, Ullman Sails Detroit
At traveling regattas, in large one design fleets, the constant debate is about how to handle the pros in each class. Some classes limit the number and others allow the entire team to be professional. It is my opinion that the professionals are good for sailing if they put the Corinthian sailing team first.

It is the Corinthian or amateur sailor that is funding the professionals at some level. Many of the pros are sailmakers trying to win regattas in effort to sell more sails. Others are coaches at some level offering advice to amateur teams and skippers. Sailing is unique in that the amateur has an opportunity to race against the very best in the sport. However, in a select few major events, Corinthian teams should race against other Corinthian teams only.

The Corinthian team should be the headline story and not be scored, as is typically done, with an asterisk in the standings. I would like to see the scoring set up showing the Corinthian leaders first and all the others in a separate column (all pros or a mix of professional sailors). Some of the classes are getting so big now it may even make sense to have two separate starts in the major events for amateur teams and pro teams.

There would be plenty of events to race against the professionals but for major events I think it would be fun to have separated classes. The typical Corinthian team cannot prepare like the pros because they have time and family constraints that are not related to sailing. A pro team can show up two weeks prior to an event, testing and practicing to best prepare for the conditions.

When I read sailing magazines usually the story around an event is about the professionals and not the individuals that are taking time away from their family and spending their own money to be on a sailing team. We need to make the team the story and not the pro and then the owner. For sure the owners should be recognized but I would love to see the entire team get the recognition they deserve.

The Melges 24 class has made a fantastic resurgence because of the Corinthian teams. Later this year the class will have a world championship in Miami with over 100 boats. This class should be split into two classes, one being Corinthian and the other open. There should be an equal trophy for each division and stories should be about the winning teams – not any one individual.

Maybe Dave Ullman was right twenty years ago when he mentioned that professional sailors were not in the best interest for sailing. I think we have the responsibility to make sure the people that are funding sailing are getting the knowledge and advice to be the best that they can be without grabbing all the attention.

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