How do we start making changes?

Published on July 23rd, 2018

Bill Canfield’s commitment to the sport is fueled by his passion for it, and he has taken on all forms of highly positioned roles to support it. He knows what works, so it hard for him to see the various influences negatively impacting participation.

Here we give Bill the pulpit to share his sentiments:


Bill Canfield

I have a sad feeling about our sport. With so many issues pulling at its fiber, I question the strength of our leadership in addressing the many problems Sailing now faces. Here are some of the issues:

• Do we really need dual scoring to decide who wins a race? Yes, there are three technical rating rules but can’t we just decide on one to score an event. May be we do alternate years with each rule but let’s solve the problem. I like having a real single winner at each event; not one done by consensus. Don’t overlook the success of the Caribbean Sailing Rule. Lots of regattas use it and it’s been around for over 50 years!

• The IOC won’t be happy until foiling is in the Olympics! Do they realize boats can only foil in certain wind conditions and reasonable sea states? Will they be happy with day after day of no sailing? Should World Sailing not point this out as a problem? Should the Star, Finn, and 470 die slow deaths because they don’t foil or do relay races? Talk about lack of leadership and positive direction. Follow the money on this one.

• Why has US Sailing not done a better job administering PHRF? Their hands-off approach has pretty much driven all the 30 to 50 foot boats off the race course, or at least only willing to sail in their own area. We need to create some leadership and organization here to get this simplified system back on track. For both club racing and beer can events, it’s the best we have once we get the politics out of this current fiasco. If not US Sailing then who?

• Match racing, with the exception of events such as the Congressional Cup, Bermuda Gold Cup and a few poorly attended European regattas, has been destroyed with the introduction of M32s by the World Match Racing Tour. This is a tragic loss as match racing is a great part of our sport. This is solvable with more Club run events and not manufacturers trying to sell a boat.

• The America’s Cup has lost its tradition, the interest of most of the sailing community, and its uniqueness / personality. It’s now raced in rocket ships, skippered and crewed by very politically-correct guys in space suits with hand held computers on bikes. Remember Perth in /87? I do fondly and so do most sailors. I’m disappointed in Team New Zealand’s chosen direction. I expected better.

• Race Week events are more than an endangered species. Key West is gone. Block Island is bleeding red ink, Big Boat Series is all small boats and NYYC has 60 entries this year. I think time away from home and cost are the defining issues, but how do we move forward doing multi-day events? Better scheduling of events in the area would help.

• Junior Sailing is coach dominated and winning has become the primary direction taken by many programs. By 12 years of age, we have driven too many from the sport as sailing for fun is considered non-productive to building skills and dangerous. So sad!

• New one-design classes generally aren’t enduring as they quickly become “arms races” which drives the average person out of the class. Manufacturers and better class rules could go a long way to help this situation.

The news is not all bad but our sport needs a Renaissance. I’m not sure we can depend on an almost bankrupt World Sailing (did they really need that new London address?) or a “too politically correct” US Sailing to lead the way.

What we need is a grassroots effort to push change and new ideas into Sailing. We need yacht / sailing clubs to work together to push through change. We need new leadership on the local and National level that wants sailing to survive and prosper.

How do we start making changes? I would love to hear your ideas.

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