Charles “Chuck” Hawley

Friday, 18 July 2014 /
Chuck Hawley-web

Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA

Education: University of California, Santa Barbara. BA, Economics


Until 2013, Chuck worked at West Marine in a variety of positions, including vice president roles in retail stores, product development, and product information. Chuck enjoyed his career at West Marine, especially in the area of product testing and development. Chuck was also able to do extensive offshore sailing, which allowed him to use and test sailing gear in actual use. He has been fortunate to have sailed in gorgeous places and with some of the world’s best sailors. Voyages of note include:

  • Two single-handed Transpacs on ultralight sailboats
  • Two Transpacs, including a first to finish place on Charley in 1983
  • Several record attempts on the maxi catamaran Playstation, including a non-record-setting seven-day trans-Atlantic trip
  • Sailing and canal boat charters in the British Virgin Islands, Mexico, France, and Italy

For the last three years, Chuck has served as the US Sailing Safety at Sea Chairman. He has been a Safety at Sea Moderator for the last 24 years.

Words from Chuck Hawley

“My primary involvement with US Sailing has been with the offshore division, which I believe is a vital resource sailors who race under the various rating rules. The move towards a Universal Measurement System is extremely positive for these sailors by allowing them to “measure once and rate many” under any current or future rule. I am proud of the offshore division’s leadership in this area. I am also a US Powerboating instructor, and I believe that there are many opportunities for expansion of our role to be the dominant provider of on-water powerboat instruction.”

A Q&A with Chuck Hawley

1. Collaboration was a popular theme for the attendees at the Sailing Leadership Forum earlier this year. How can community sailing centers, yacht clubs and other sailing organizations collaborate with each other more on key initiatives to grow sailing?

The process for clubs and sailing centers to solve common issues is exactly the same as problem solving for other for-profit and non-profit organizations. Like individuals, different organizations have strengths and weaknesses, and the majority of the problems have been solved by one of the organizations: the challenge is to identify the best solution and to share it. That’s why it is so important to have sailing organizations send representatives to the national meetings; it’s where you’ll find the answers about membership, staffing, junior sailing, volunteerism, and becoming a better organization.

My local club, for example, was having a difficult time transitioning young adults from junior status to regular member status as they graduated from college. A series of meetings was held to determine what the 22 to 35 year olds were looking for from their club (e.g. inexpensive racing, a fun social scene, crewing opportunities – shocker!). In the following year, modest changes were made and over 30 new Corinthian members were added to the club roster. Knowledge of what was done at my club could be shared and utilized by any organization facing a similar problem and achieve similar results, but only if the message is disseminated.

Similarly, sharing best practices for community sailing centers can build this core access point for new sailors. There are tons of common topics: grant writing, working with local governments and colleges, marketing to kids, teens and adults, staffing, etc.

– How can these organizations and other sailing industries integrate with their local communities to provide more awareness for prospective new sailors?

One of the best ways that community sailing organizations and yacht clubs can attract new sailors is through a robust and affordable junior sailing program and, dare I say it, by offering the US Powerboating courses. The junior sailing programs certainly attract kids at an age where they are looking for excitement, fun, and an opportunity to socialize with like-minded kids. With any luck, we can turn a high percentage of juniors into lifelong sailors. The other advantage is that kids come with a parent or two who are also likely prospects for sail training lessons or club membership.

The US Powerboating classes help in three ways. First, there is something like nine times as many powerboaters as sailors, so the market is huge. Second, just getting a new “boater” involved with your organization is an opportunity to show her/him the beauty of sailing. Third, you can provide skills for parents who want to help at their children’s regattas or at a local dinghy race.

There are other subtle ways to get in front of a potential audience. My daughter Izze is a freshman in high school, and is taking a swimming/water safety class. The class has no boats involved; only pool skills. What if the students could see what it’s like to crawl around on a CFJ in the high school pool? They could capsize, see how it responds to their weight, and generally “mess around on boats”. The cost would be minimal for a club to provide this “prop” for prospective sailors.

– What can US Sailing do to help facilitate these partnerships?

US Sailing’s role is that of a convener for like-minded sailors to get answers to questions, share experiences, provide guidance on certification, provide consistent course materials, etc. US Sailing can’t force this on any organization, instead it can become the de facto source for quality information and collaboration. The way to do this is to offer a better solution than any other alternative sources for this information. Too often, organizations expect that people will flock to them, without taking the time to listen to what they, the customers, are actually looking for.

I think US Sailing has been responsive to the needs of US sailors, especially in recent years, but no organization can rest on its laurels: it has to offer a better solution, fine-tuned to the needs of its members.

2. How has US Sailing’s programs and services impacted your overall sailing experience?

My involvement has been in three areas: local PHRF racing, Safety at Sea training and equipment regulation, and US Powerboating training. In all cases, US Sailing has done an excellent job of providing the services that I was looking for. I think the National Faculty and Training Division do a great job of providing instructor training and course materials for the many thousands of students in both powerboating and sailing.

Although I think PHRF is in transition in the U.S., due to the powerful tools that the Offshore Division provides to fleets, I have benefitted from the published ratings of my boat’s sisterships. And I think, somewhat selfishly, that our Safety at Sea training has been beneficial to thousands of sailors who sail offshore.

3. Is it important for sailors to be members of US Sailing?

Yes, it is important if US Sailing serves their interests and provides the resources, expertise, training, technical support and other services that sailing requires.

All membership organizations have to be resolute in their commitment to meeting their members’ needs, and if they are not, they need to suffer the perils of their misdirection. I think US Sailing does meet the majority of members’ needs, but it’s a never-ending process of member feedback, brainstorming, flexibility in structure, and response to the input.

I think we sometimes worry about competition and think “how to we keep them out of our market?” when the question should be asked “how can we keep them out of the market by serving our customers better than before?” One example: US Sailing disregarded the PHRF fleets in the past, but has the expertise in the Offshore Division to help all PHRF fleets with modern tools and guidance. Providing valuable services is the key to increased membership.