Something to think about

Published on February 5th, 2014

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
There are three prominent mountains in the sport of sailing:

The Olympics
The Volvo Ocean Race
The America’s Cup

I know some of you that don’t give a flying fu#k about these events. Probably prefer to scrape them. Don’t bother; something would replace them. I’m more of a ‘glass half full’ guy, and I think we should care about them.

There is a ‘trickle down’ from elite events. These events see the game played at its highest level. What is learned from that investment trickles down to the rest of us. Now, not all of it is good. Where the sport is mismanaged, the trickle down increases cost and complexity. But helpful improvements – equipment and knowledge – can occur from this intense commitment.

These mountains also have a “trickle up’. They pull us toward them. But North America is getting left behind… particularly USA. There was a time when Americans dominated all three events. Now, there’s hardly anyone ascending their slopes.

What do we care about Mark Reynolds’ Olympic medals, John Kostecki and Paul Cayard winning ocean races, or Dennis Conner conquering the Cup? Because their commitment and success pulled Americans toward the hill. But the crowd has thinned behind them.

Not everyone wants to climb to the top of the mountain. That’s not my point. My contention is their commitment and success pulled countryman along that trail. It created interest.

But the train got derailed (a discussion for another day) and success waned. However, there appears to now be opportunity for USA on each peak…

Olympics: People are now recognizing that change must occur during the youth years. More technical boats and more diverse sailing experiences are needed. By growing non-youth boat classes, all young people can continue to compete in dinghies beyond their youth years.

Volvo Ocean Race: The mentors involved in the Morning Light film inspired Charlie Enright and Mark Towill to chase this dream. These twenty-something men put in the offshore miles, competed in lesser events, and are now leading their own team. They will inspire the next generation to go keelboat sailing.

America’s Cup: Successful defender Larry Ellison has the opportunity to define the event rules to require crew to be nationals of each team’s country. New Zealand succeeds in all sectors of the sport because this is already part of their culture. If Larry wants to help the sport, as he contends, he would include a nationality clause. This feature will pull people toward all three mountains.

Agree or disagree?

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