The Long Beat to Diversity

Published on April 6th, 2021

If you want to know how healthy sailing will be in a generation from now, look to how well we do at growing diversity. The country is changing. Sailing lags. Report by Kimball Livingston, Sailing World.


Events in 2020 laid bare a host of ­societal shortcomings. Inspiration says we must take action. In the next minute, the cynic in me shouts out that suddenly every institution from Harvard to your local YC to Gus’ Gas and Bait Shop now has a DE&I committee. Some, but I hope not all, will fritter away to mere talk. But in case you missed it, DE&I stands for diversity, equity and inclusion. Diversity means that everybody gets invited to the dance. Equity means that everybody gets to dance. Inclusion means that everybody has a good time. There has never been a better time to talk about this. Ordinarily, it would be outside the view of a racing-sailing magazine to broach these topics, but the fact is, the country we live in is jangled. We’re poised for a reset.

“US Sailing has 1,700 member organizations,” president Cory Sertl says. “In this moment, they’re coming to us for advice, and bringing with them a willingness and desire to diversify their memberships. That’s true whether they’re a prestigious yacht club, a community sailing center or an ­off-the-beach just-do-it.”

But how? How to go from good intentions to effective action. Writing this column was an education as I phone-walked my way through operations that are already fully engaged. They have lessons to teach. Take Karen Harris in Chicago, for example: Her 125-year-old Jackson Park Yacht Club on the South Side of the city is sited in a target-rich environment, if you’re talking DE&I opportunity. The surrounding community houses a large population of minority families, and the facility is suited to teaching beginners; it even works day by day for hosting caregivers who cannot afford to travel back and forth twice, to drop off and pick up (two bus fares for grandma versus four).

The only ingredients missing when Harris became commodore were initiative and commitment. She brought those. Harris says: “The club’s junior program was defunct, so we started from scratch and ran a conventional program the first year. In 2018, we became a 501c3, acquired grant money, and launched outreach.” – Full report

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