Dear Larry, Thank You For Your Contribution

Published on September 29th, 2013

By John Olson, UCSD Sailing Team Captain
While many of the positive consequences from the 34th America’s Cup are going to be intangible or pass unnoticed, I wanted to share my experience with you of one overwhelmingly tangible experience that is happening to the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Sailing Team because of the America’s Cup.

Entering my third year as Team Captain, and fourth at UCSD, I was excited. The Cup was swinging back our way and I was hard at work fixing up the boats for the season.

During the first week back at school, we were out recruiting, trying to get anyone interested to sign up for our club team. We had always prided ourselves on teaching students with no prior experience how to sail. Part of our varsity squad always included one or more of those who learned everything they knew about sailing through the team.

With our recruiting display and information, something remarkable happened. Over the course of two hours we had almost 200 people put down their names and email addresses and we quickly ran out of the 500+ flyers we made advertising our first team meeting. No other club team had near this much activity and we had never seen this level of excitement before.

How I know you’re to thank? At that first team meeting, incidentally the day Oracle Team USA won the Cup, I brought up how historic the day and the comeback was. Not only did all 70+ people in the room (double the number present the year before and 90% of which had never sailed before) know what I was talking about, they all enthusiastically cheered and applauded.

A year ago at that same meeting, when I brought up how we were going to see if we could get a base tour when your team was in San Diego for the AC World Series (which your team graciously gave us; it was awesome), I received a lot of blank stares. No one really knew what the Cup was, and that wasn’t why anyone showed up. This year, it was different.

And the interest keeps on coming. In order to get sign-ups for our annual Meet the Team BBQ, we told people they could start requesting spots at 7am the next day, first come first serve. Fifty people emailed us between 7:00 and 7:02am, with 15 more emailing us before 8am, sadly we only had 35 spots available for the new sailors because of our small fleet of six FJs and funds that cannot accommodate free food for so many people. Last year? We were able to bring out everyone interested.

While getting the newbies out, and trying to figure out how to accommodate so many excited individuals is a problem, it’s probably the best problem we could hope to have.

Things are changing for the better, and the younger generations and I have you to thank for pushing the sport to its limits and driving youth to water in boatloads. I get no greater satisfaction than instilling a passion of sailing in others, and if you feel at all in a similar way, you should feel mighty satisfied knowing that you’ve instilled that passion into countless individuals.

So thank you. Thank you for making others see how exciting sailing can be, for getting them to go out and try it, for getting everyone to respect it, for reminding me and others what sailing is all about, and lastly for overflowing my roster.

I really hope this reaches your desk and I cannot wait to see what’s next.

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