Get the Pros Out of Racing

Published on January 11th, 2016

It was in 1986, nearly 30 years ago, when Sailing World magazine unleashed a hurricane of an interview with Dave Ullman titled, ‘Get the Pros Out of Racing‘.

This was a time when sailing professionals worked for marine businesses that supported the sport. Ullman Sails was well established, and Dave was dominating the race course, yet he believed the influence his industry had was harmful to the sport.

A lot has changed since 1986. Newer boats are more technical, which require more skill. Owners not only recruit their equipment providers, but also now support an industry of coaches and elite sailors who sail for a daily pay rate.

The sport is now smaller, yet there are more sailing professionals. Was Ullman right? Here’s the interview from the November 1986 issue of Sailing World…

Why do you want ‘professionals’ banned from racing?
People in the industry – the professionals – are hurting the sport of yacht racing. To win on a bigger boat you need somebody with a lot of expertise to sail your boat. So you find sailmakers, yacht designers, etc. But to get them to sail your boat, you have to buy new equipment, whether you need it or not.

In the long run that kills the sport for a couple reasons: 1) There are only so many good sailors in the industry – there’s only X amount of talent – and if you can’t get one of those good people you probably don’t have a chance of winning; 2) It takes the fun out of it for owners; they pay the bills and don’t race their own boats. People who want to race their boats get out of the sport because they don’t have a chance of winning. I know a lot of people who have quit sailing because they didn’t think they had a chance to win.

We need to ban industry people; we need to exclude them from normal weekend sailing, one-design sailing except Olympic classes. I don’t mean just driving, I mean off the boats entirely. And we need to ban tem from IOR events, except for a professional division. Hell, right now there are people like myself sailing PHRF weekends. That’s absurd.

Is it because a customer has asked you to sail with him and that represents a ‘sale’?
It’s strictly a defensive move. “Joe Blow has got Sam the Sailmaker with him this weekend; you’ve got to come along because I usually beat Joe. Could you come sail with me this weekend?” Rather than keeping both of us off the boats.

But the only way that we’ll all be kept off is through legislation. It’s never going to happen voluntarily. The customers want to win and the sailmakers want to sell sails. Or the boat designers want to sell boats. And it’s no better having me sit next to the customer saying, “Up, down, up, down.”

A lot of people say, “Maybe the professional should still be on the boat to help us sail the boat.” I say he should be on board Friday, not on the weekends.

For full interview… click here.

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