Look outside your cockpit

Published on July 8th, 2021

by Martine Zurinskas
As a Board member of US Sailing, I work hard to support our sport and organization. I grew up sailing in South Carolina and now am proudly a regatta mom for my kids with multiple boats in tow. Recently I was able to work as a fill-in program director at a small club in South Carolina … Columbia Sailing Club on Lake Murray.

I have experience being a program director and was happy to support this club where I took my first lesson 40 years ago. For three weeks I supervised eight instructors who coached beginner sailors in both Opti and C420, Women on the Water classes, and PB&J Classes.

In total, over 134 new sailors came through this inland lake program in the first three weeks of their seven-week summer program. While I was amazed by the size of this three-year-old program, the real joy was watching so many NEW sailors fall in love with our sport! No matter the pace of learning, it was rewarding to be a part of growing our sport.

Part of my duties as a Board member is to support our Olympic team and being a part of their journey has been very fulfilling. Bridging that pathway, I showed the young sailors some videos during a rainy day of our Olympians; they were in awe of the speed, the boats, and the determination of our Olympic heroes.

I explained how these elite athletes also began sailing in a junior program just like theirs: learning their knots, getting stuck in irons, and the ever so fun capsize drill. They were inspired by our Olympians and so am I, especially leading up to Tokyo 2020.

Lesson learned: look outside your cockpit and participate in your local sailing community. Go help your local program launch dollies, be a guest speaker, help fix a program boat, surprise the class with popsicles, or bring donuts one day for the instructors.

Giving back to our sport does not always mean a check (but those are graciously needed also, thank you for your support). If you give back to sailing in person or through a donation, you too will be inspired by all these beginners falling in love with our sport.

Then, take the next step and show them how to continue in our sport’s various pathways: take kids on a ride on your big boat, show a video of foiling kiteboards, teach them how to do Race Committee or teach the rules, or just share your experience cruising. The beauty of sailing is that there are so many pathways forward: skipper or crew, small boat or big boat, racing or cruiser, volunteer or participant. Share your love for our sport with the next sailor.

While after a month I am utterly exhausted, it was personally very rewarding to be a part of the grass roots knowing that I helped inspire a new generation of sailors to be a part of our sport. Thanks to Columbia Sailing Club for taking the big leap to support summer-long programing and a very busy year-round schedule! I encourage everyone to look outside your cockpit this year to see how you can help grow our sport.

Thank you for your support of sailing, at all levels.

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