Position: Vice President
Hometown: Alameda, CA
- Why do you want to be a member of US Sailing’s Board of Directors?
I believe sailing is one of the most beneficial sports/outdoor activities to the development of youth and the health of families in the U.S. Sharing nature, building self-reliance and ingenuity in the family children, sharing the navigation and seamanship traditions that are part of what we do all situate sailing uniquely among almost all other outdoor sports or activities. Because of this, I want to grow sailing in the U.S. to the levels enjoyed by many other first world countries. I believe we have a compelling activity that suffers a lack of popularity due to American cultural norms and the history of yachting in the 19th and 20th centuries. If this is seen by most Americans as a middle class family activity, we can double sailing’s participation numbers in 20 years, galvanize the sailing industry, and get our kids to become lifelong sailors. This growth will result in improved numbers for US Sailing, membership/sponsorship, and more medals for our Olympic Team. I believe my goals above are shared by many others and I believe I can best contribute to them by being a board member.
- How can community sailing centers, yacht clubs and other sailing organizations collaborate with each other more on key initiatives to grow sailing?
Yacht clubs and RSAs can exploit their local community sailing centers as the tools for long term health of the local sailing scene. Those programs are the tip of the spear for attracting people, especially adults who weren’t introduced as children. Yacht clubs can build relationships with community sailing (for or not for profit) where the marketing expertise and entry level training provided by the CSC is complemented by the facilities, social environment and tradition of the yacht club. In practice, this has had the most success by sharing limited, temporary privileges with the members of each – community sailing members could be provided a loss leader access to yacht clubs to lure them as dues paying members and yacht club members could be given reduced fee boat use and training privileges at CSCs as fair trade and to keep the CSCs vibrant and busy.
Most importantly, yacht clubs, RSAs and US Sailing as the NGB, must keep in mind that the base of our pyramid is community and youth sailing through our yacht club network. Our Olympic excellence, the health of the industry that supports our sport and the influence we maintain on our municipal, state and federal agencies all depend on a strong base, exemplified by community sailing’s introducing new sailors of all ages to the lifelong activity we all love.
- How can these organizations and other sailing industries integrate with their local communities to provide more awareness for prospective new sailors?
Sell the message to media, government and the established giving public that only in rarified parts of sailing is it a sport for rich people. Someone who can afford to eat out once a month can afford to sail at a community sailing center. Small sailboats and used sailboats are inexpensive and easily afforded by middle class and lower middle class families. Community sailing lessons are the cheapest and quickest way to get from knowing nothing to being confident and competent on the water.
Support Sail America’s boat show initiative to get would-be sailors into teaser lessons at boat shows.
Adopt a platform that is longer term for sales of boats and equipment. Join the chorus to encourage new sailors to learn from a professional, try different boats, learn what part of sailing turns them on, then buy. This will require a brave move by dealers and manufacturers who are normally driven by quarterly results. But, well trained sailors are 10 times more likely to stay with sailing, buy multiple boats and proselytize for sailing, if they are first confident in their abilities.
- What can US Sailing do to help facilitate these partnerships?
US Sailing can use the model of regional and national symposiums to bring industry, not for profit and government together to solve problems/share ideas. Our Sailing Leadership Forum is the obvious choice for a nationally focused effort – just invite the players above and give them something of value. We can modify the SLF goals to include cultivating these partnerships between industry, government, LSOs and US Sailing.
US Sailing can facilitate the organization of regional events that bring dealers, yacht clubs and community sailing organizations together with the goal of growing the sport long term. Currently, it has a successful model of bringing community sailing programs together regionally to share best practices. This format is perfect to provide a venue for regional partners to learn how they can make sailing more popular.
US Sailing can bring its army of volunteers and staff to bear on the challenge of convincing sponsors that a long term view of building participation in the sport is worth pursuing. If this were our mantra, we would slowly bring the industry around to a longer term view. “Sailing’s growth requires a 20 year plan, rather than a 20 month/week or day plan.”
- How has US Sailing’s programs and services impacted your overall sailing experience?
As a racing sailor, I’ve appreciated the improvements in race admin and race officer training as well as mark boat training and the continued improvement in the rules.
As a cruising sailor, I’ve appreciated the work US Sailing has done to advise the USCG and state administrators on rational regulations for boating safety. US Sailing’s reputation with the USCG is that it is the unquestioned leader in OTW boating instruction. Statistics point to dramatically lower accident rates with US Sailing/US Powerboating trained boaters. US Sailing has influenced the USCG to undertake initiatives that are more in line with what we, as sailors, can respect and support.
As a sailing school owner, I enjoyed the brand recognition from carrying the US Sailing banner as the NGB of sailing. Our Keelboat Program benefited from the incredible expert oversight from the Safety at Sea committee, volunteers like Timmy Larr, John Bonds, Sheila McCurdy, Chuck Hawley, Steve Colgate, etc. Finally, our school was improved by the structure and discipline that the US Sailing Keelboat Program provided Keelboat Program Schools.
- Is it important for sailors to be members of US Sailing?
Yes. However, there are many shades of grey based on the relationship sailors have with US Sailing. From eight year-old kids in water fights at summer camps, novice sailors just graduated from a learn to sail program, regular crew on a friend’s Catalina 30 for weekend trips – to seasoned cruising sailors, long time members of community sailing programs, one design racing crew, boat owners and professionals that make up the more elite levels of racing in the U.S., each of these market segments needs a tailor made membership option that truly provides them value AND perceived value. Giving a dyed in the wool cruising sailor the option for a copy of the Racing Rules didn’t work and should inform our future efforts. We already have a couple of nice market-segment-driven memberships, youth and collegiate. Let’s expand on that!
- Training Committee Chair – 17 years
- Board of Directors and Executive Committee – 1997-2000
- Commercial Sailing Committee Chair – 2 years
- Cruising Committee
- Represent US Sailing to:
- National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), National knowledge Standards Committee and Education Standards Panel
- USCG National On The Water Standards Committee
- Member of National Boating Safety Advisory Council to the US Coast Guard
- Vice President, Alameda Community Sailing Center, Alameda, CA
- Owned and operated OCSC Sailing – for 30+ years, the premier sailing school in San Francisco Bay, with 50 yachts, 1100 members & 70 employees. CEO, 2005 – 2014.
- Have lead over 30 commercial charter flotillas throughout the world
- Active racer on a variety of keelboats
- USCG license earned 1979
- Training, Olympics and Championships need to collaborate to ensure we are effectively preparing our coaches and competitive sailors to represent the US.
- Over 95% of the sailors in the US are not US Sailing members. In order to grow our membership we must provide value to the sailors not currently US Sailing members. I believe we need three things for this:
- More aggressive promotion of our great portfolio of member benefits
- Persistent messaging that US Sailing is making sailing better for all sailors, not just racers.
- Reach out to all sailors to let them know their experience will be enhanced by membership in US Sailing, with specific and compelling examples.
- Diversity is a common buzz word, but our entire future as a sport depends on more women, more ethnic minorities and more income demographics finding that sailing is for them. We must do more than just not discriminate. We must reach out, solicit and market to these groups, thereby slowly changing the culture of America so it sees sailing as inviting, exciting, affordable and a lifelong activity. This is a long term vision, at least a decade, not just a few years or months away.
- All divisions of US Sailing need to contribute to its fiscal health while accomplishing its mission. I’ll require a compelling case for any short-term red budget numbers in any division.
- We need to reward our members by making it easy for them to avail themselves of the myriad of great benefits that US Sailing offers!
- I believe US Sailing’s greatest value is in education and training. US Sailing is celebrated by the entire boating community for its commitment to and expertise in, education and training of sailors in safety and competence.
Contact Richard Jepsen