Highlights from the 2018 Sailing Leadership Forum

Published on February 8th, 2018

The 2018 Sailing Leadership Forum attracted leaders in the sport to meet and learn from one-another amid a full schedule of presentations on February 1-3 in St. Petersburg, FL. This video captures the essence of the event with the summary below provided by US Sailing’s Chief Executive Officer Jack Gierhart and President Bruce Burton.


The energy was so contagious, and the positive atmosphere was inspiring for us all. This year’s Forum attracted 532 attendees! It was great to see so many of the attendees returning from past Sailing Leadership Forums and equally encouraging to see so many new faces at this year’s Forum; 156 new attendees, to be exact. We know many past attendees made it a priority to invite friends, co-workers, volunteers and fellow sailors.

We had over 90 presenters and keynote speakers who volunteered their time to share their collective knowledge. We had tremendous participation during the spectacular Demo Day featuring the latest product lines and equipment from the top sailboat manufacturers and industry brands in the country. The weather and conditions could not have been better!

Like so many other sports, sailing has its challenges in terms of growing the sport for newcomers and advancing more opportunities for both beginners and experienced sailors. Fortunately, there are a great deal of strengths and opportunities within our respective sailing communities and you can all take advantage of them.

We are focused and ready at US Sailing to confront these challenges and are confident we can work together to help ensure a healthy future for sailing in the U.S.

Here are five key strategies that US Sailing is engaged in to help drive a healthy and sustainable future for our sport:

1. Establish a deliberate pathway for life-long opportunities and development.
2. Ensure sailors have access to a full spectrum of organized sailing activities – from “all about fun” to “all about competition” and from participation to administration.
3. Regionalize and localize US Sailing presence and support.
4. Make volunteering with US Sailing more mutually beneficial and rewarding for all involved.
5. Establish and sustain a reputation for American success at the highest levels of sailing.

Together, let’s find a way to reinvent an inviting on ramp for new audiences, ready for the promise of connection, adventure, fun and enjoyment that sailing offers. Let’s align our goals, collaborate, and strive not only for your organizations’ goals, but broader goals for the good of the sport.

We learned a lot last week from our keynote speakers, Ron Tite and Brian Fanzo, about personal and professional brand reinvention and the importance of embracing change. Disruption can be a good thing. It’s time we start trying to translate the DNA of sailing to younger generations in their language. And, remember to focus on the “why” not the “what.”

So, let’s drive up the fun factor and bring new people and younger people into the game and into our community. We are in a new economy, a membership economy, an economy that is about access, experience and community, rather than ownership.

You are the leaders of the sport. We are the leadership that people rely upon. If we do our job right, we can get to the point where our sport is growing, and we can light the path of the sport for newcomers and future generations.

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