Zach’s First Sail

Published on September 5th, 2013

Watching his young son soak in sailing brought Dean Brenner back to what’s really important about the sport….

I retired from running the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team last September. For a few months afterwards, I really wanted nothing to do with boats, or the water, or any part of our sport. I was burned out from the stress, the daily burden of fundraising, the constant battle of trying to keep lots of people happy, often with conflicting agendas. I actually spent a few months not caring a bit about getting anywhere near a sailboat. I wanted to avoid having too many “so what happened at the Olympics last summer” conversations. I was happy to stay far, far away.

But then I went on vacation this summer and spent a month in Watch Hill, RI, where I grew up and my wife and I first met long ago. Emily and I both have family there, and our sailing roots are firmly planted at the Watch Hill Yacht Club.

At the beginning of this vacation, I started venturing down to the club a little at a time, sitting on the dock in the mornings with my coffee, and watching the junior program sailors rig up their Optis. Then I started bringing our three-year old Zach down with me. He quickly became interested in watching the kids put in their masts, centerboards, and rudders. Zach is an inquisitive kid and his most constant refrain is “tell me more about that.” He says it about twenty times per day.

He asked me how everything on a boat works, why do you do it one way vs. another, why do you need a mast, what does a tiller do, what is that called, etc, etc, etc. And as I had my morning coffee each day and watched Zach absorbing it all, I started to remember the things that made me love sailing in the first place. Over the last eight years, I was running a professional sports team. It was exciting. But when the stakes are high, the stress is often high as well. Eventually I got tired of all of it.

But this was different…read on

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