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COMMENTARY: Ramblings From “The Pope” – ISAF Past President Paul Henderson

Published on April 2nd, 2013

By Glenn McCarthy
Paul Henderson and I are Star boating friends from the days before he ascended to the Presidency of ISAF. Always solid in thought, always raising the paulhenderson2smalldander when proselytizing, we engaged again recently through email, and here is his take on what grew the sport 30-40 years ago that isn’t happening today. He encourages that we recapture the success of 30-40 years ago:

1) The Game has got too expensive. When a 20 ft. Melges or J/boat costs $60,000 that is ridiculous. The adage used to be is that your racing boat should be no more than your wife’s car or $15,000 (in our day $3000). [Author’s note – he’s Canadian!]

2) The Promoters have taken over and come out with a new boat constantly and get the Pros to sail them. Elvstrom said that it is easier to design a new boat than build a class organization. Years ago the classes were like a fraternity: Star, Snipe, Lightning, Soling, Etchells, Finn. The guys at the middle and back of the fleet had a great time and we would all go to the bar after and hear Buddy (Melges) pontificate.

3) These classes were one or two person crews, not the faceless 8-10 boat crews who sit like mugwumps on the rail of some 40 footer paid for by some wealthy investment dealer. (A Mugwump is a bird who sits on the fence with his mug in one hand and his other hand on a wump).

4) The Yacht Clubs have forgotten what they are about and are run by the Food and Beverage Manager who has convinced the Board that regattas should be a profit center, rather than the hosting the sailors cheaply as the raison d’etre of a Yacht Club.

5) When the Wednesday morning Ladies Bridge Club is more important than the Saturday race, we are in trouble.

6) Make the local racing fun and forget about travelling and being gypsies sailing out of your garage.

7) Have very tight class rules and enforce them. I always thought that if a sailmaker wanted to race in your fleet you had the right to go up to him before the race and make him use your old jib and you use his new one.

8) The Optimist class is the best tyke trainer but is doing more to kill sailing then any class. You Americans call them Little League Parents and we call them Hockey Parents but Opti Parents are a disaster, plus their coaches. You can now compete in an Opti at 15 yrs 9 months, if you can starve your kid to keep at 110 pounds. We have 12 year olds in our Junior Club who are bigger than that so they are kicked out of the Opti and go play golf. Also kids’ hormones start getting excited at that age and they do not want to be with little kids anymore, so get them into other classes. Opti age limit should be “not having reached 13.” I tried to put that in at ISAF and was thrown out by the Opti Parents.

9) We should stop focusing on singlehanders, trapeze boats and college sailing. There are people who like to crew and do not want to be the “prick at the stick,” so 2 or 3 people boats are also the way to go. Trapezes breed freaks. The skipper is very small and the crew is lanky with a heavy head. Intercollegiate sailing is also for very small people.

10) The Olympics has become a Junior Regatta dictated by the IOC with the deletion of the keelboats. It was not ISAF who caused it except they buckled under to the IOC when we should not have allowed it. IOC tried that when I was President and told them, “NO Way Jose!!” (Really, “No Way Jacques!”)

* I think the Inland Lake Yachting Association is the model. Forget about the Olympics or USSA, and focus on how to run the USofA.
* Focus on local regional sailing and get all the clubs to zero in on all sailing the same small boats. (We have a fleet of club owned, but bought by members, and given to the club Ideal 18’s, which are now 10 years old. Good solid boats only 2 people.) If all the clubs in a region bought the same boats and kept them racing for 30 years then you have used boats that new people can get into the game reasonably.
* With regards to the Olympics, if you have a very good broad base then the Melges spin out the top and do not need a myriad of coaches and trainers and support teams.
* It shocks me when a parent has a kid who wins an Opti race and then immediately starts dreaming about training for the Olympics.
* When the kid can beat 80 year old Buddy Melges on Lake Geneva then think your kid has talent. Until then let them have fun in the local regattas.
* The only thing my Dad ever said to me on Toronto Island when I started at age 8 and he bought me a $50 Sabot was: “I will inspect it every Thursday and if you do not keep it clean you do not sail.”

Reprinted courtesy of April 2013 Lake Michigan SuRF Newsletter

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