Sailing as a Sport- Thoughts to Consider

Published on December 5th, 2013

In the J/105 class publication, President Carter Williams offers a bit of history about his engagement with sailing, and an outlook for his membership to consider. His sage advice deserved a bigger audience… read on:

As a teenager, I learned to sail at the American Yacht Club in Rye, NY. My dinghy coaches included the Perrys and Dellenbaughs. I raced with Courtney Becker, who later went to the Olympics and America’s Cup. We had an active Big Boat program for juniors, led by Lorna Hibbard, a peer of my grandmother’s, who at age 70 still windsurfed. She taught my father to sail when he was a teenager.

After college in 1989, I went to work at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis. Over the years, I sailed occasionally on our family’s Alden 44. After 18 years in St. Louis, a few good business choices allowed me to sail again.

I picked the J/105 to start sailing again – easy to trailer, big fleet, one design and sprit pole. I arrived back at AYC one fall for the North Americans, finishing dead last. Fairly embarrassing! I regrouped, got a coach, changed around crew, and finished mid-fleet in Key West. Then fourth in the Chicago North Americans. I raced the boat out of Harbor Springs (MI) when not traveling. This last summer, we won in class and overall for the Ugotta Regatta with a mostly junior sailing crew, beating out a range of modern high performance boats including the J/111 and J/70.

I enjoy sailing because it’s a social multi-generational sport. Hard work, at any age, earns success. AYC’s Junior program uses a J/105 as a training boat, as we do in Harbor Springs. Courtney Becker’s brother Peter is the new Lorna Hibbard, volunteering to teach the next generation of juniors. These kids won the Vineyard Race this last September.

As is true with any great sailing venue, whenever I visit AYC, no matter how long since my last visit, I can pick up a conversation where it was left off, with peers of my parents and old sailing friends. Sailing and racing is a binding community that strengthens our relationships and families.

An essential element of the J/105’s continued success is the connections we make through sailing. Teaching juniors to race their first big boat, strengthening rusty skills as we wobble back in racing, moving up from a J/22 or J/24, or trying something new like racing single/double handed.

Our fleet will continue to evolve, persisting as a great boat for all kinds of sailors while adapting to new technology. I am eager to work with any of your thoughts on strengthening the Class and opportunities for the J/105 to impact sailing on all levels. The J/105 is a great fleet, and each of us makes the Class better.

Source: J/105 Class publication

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