Living in the Scuttlebutt World

Published on May 18th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
It was a long overdue plea when I wrote in 2017 how the growth of keelboat racing in North America was stunted without a consensus technical rule. The needle has moved since then, and as anticipated, it has taken prominent clubs to exhibit leadership.

That movement includes St. Francis Yacht Club (Northern California), Chicago and Bayview Yacht Clubs (Great Lakes), and New York Yacht Club (New England) toward ORC, with the later highlighting the class for its 169th Annual Regatta in anticipation of hosting the 2024 ORC World Championship. Great news!

As we tend to only hear negative opinion toward the America’s Cup defender, it seems the Kiwi team has not wholly lost its nation after moving the 37th event offshore. Following their successful landspeed record effort, a downtown Auckland display with the craft and team members attracted tens of thousands of people showing their support. But will they travel to Spain? Standing by.

In his Sailing World column, Gary Jobson writes about how adult team racing programs are helping to attract younger members, which is great until I consider how we got here. When youth sailing promoted age-based club-owned boats in the 1980s, it began a pattern in which kids became detached from club activity, and when they aged out, they were ill-equipped to return. Now clubs buy keelboat fleets to bring them back… hmm!

Commentary by esteemed college coach Ken Legler also prompted me to share my unpopular assessment of how youth sailing has impacted the sport in the USA. I have stayed off social media to avoid criticism toward my view, but as the Curmudgeon once said, ‘If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.’

I suspect Newport is generating worthy excitement despite hosting a very small fleet for The Ocean Race. Having the hometown team win the leg was huge for the City, but also for the crew. When they launched before the pandemic postponement, and then the course change reduced upwind sailing, their competitors could further evolve design in this development class. The US-flagged team now have a revised crew to get the most out of their ‘old’ boat… fingers crossed.

We lost a legend when Buddy Melges passed away at 93 years. I was lucky to sit with Buddy and his wife Gloria when he was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame, and I will always remember being in his presence for that night. He impacted the sport in so many ways, and likely more than we will see again.

Wednesday night racing in San Diego begins next week, and I will seek to live by the standards of my friend Rob Moore and his Ten Commandments of Beercan Racing. Wish me luck!

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