US Sailing Highlights 2014 Initiatives and Looks Ahead to a Promising 2015

Dear Sailors,

We hope that 2014 brought you and your family much happiness and that you had opportunities to remain active in your respective sailing communities with family and friends.

The year 2014 has been another year of growth and expansion of programs for US Sailing, aimed at better serving all types of sailors at every level. I would like to give you a snapshot of US Sailing’s 2014 activities and events, as well as our 2015 focus.

Sailing is evolving, and some of the most significant changes are found in how new sailors are accessing the sport and how sailing networks are accessing information to share best practices and ideas for growth. Access is a central focus for US Sailing as we work to address the evolving needs of the sailing community.

Access to Training at all Levels for all Sailors
US Sailing’s Level 1 Instructor Certification program has long been the gold standard in sailing education, and our certified instructors are extremely well prepared to teach newcomers. Many sailors find that access to high level coaching is harder to find and can be prohibitively expensive. In response, we expanded our Level 2 and Level 3 Coach training over the last two years. Now our instructor training programs are a progression that leads from beginning sailing strategies to the most advanced coaching skills.

We piloted a one-day racing clinic at some of our Junior Olympic events last summer. For many of the kids it was their first glimpse at high-level coaching, all provided by US Sailing. The response was overwhelmingly positive, proving that highly qualified coaching, even at a very young age, keeps kids and parents enthusiastically open to a racing pathway. Equally important, these top coaches also mentored the local coaches and helped them advance their own teaching skills. We plan to expand access to these clinics in 2015.

In 2014, our Olympic staff collaborated with our Youth Championships staff to bring “Try It Out Clinics” to regattas across the country. Targeting 13-17 year-olds, the clinics provide access to high-performance boats and give the kids the chance to take them out for a spin. Young sailors who are interested in following this pathway now have a remarkable ally at US Sailing.

The limited corps of race officials is a concern to all racing sailors. Engagement in race official training is hindered by what sailors see as daunting certification standards. In response, US Sailing has developed a non-certification level Club Race Officer program to give club members access to basic race management training before committing to the rigors of certification. Race Committee 101 is an interactive 90-minute presentation on race committee work. The goal is to engage potential volunteers without requiring them to commit to the full certification process.

Access to US Sailing’s Safety at Sea program has always been limited to seminar attendees. We are developing an on-line version of this signature program to vastly widen access to critical safety information and look forward to launching it in 2015. In support of coastal races and cruising, US Sailing now offers Coastal Safety at Sea Seminars. The new half-day seminars for skippers and crew members who participate in coastal or nearshore races, are now offered in a more condensed format. These seminars will better help attendees understand the latest, best practices in safety.

We have made great strides in creating on-line learning opportunities over the past year. While some of our online programs are stand-alone modules, others compliment classroom and on-the-water programs to provide a greater depth of information in a shorter time-frame.

Access to Sailing
While most yacht clubs are maintaining active memberships, we are seeing an increased demand for sailing at public access community sailing centers across the country. Individuals and families who are interested in sailing, but are not yet certain of their commitment to the sport, are learning to sail at affordable, convenient and inclusive community programs. Young adults, who sailed as children and as college students, are using community facilities.

At US Sailing, we are doing everything possible to support this thriving entry point. Our Community Sailing Certification program assures consistency in training so that each new sailor is assured of the highest possible standard in education and safety.  This year’s annual appeal, the First Sail initiative, will provide grant funding to community programs. On the adaptive sailing front, this year we established the Pioneer Grant Program, offering grant funding to community programs for fleet and facility expansion as well as instructor education and sailor scholarship programs to expand access for disabled sailing.

The US Sailing Reach program makes sailing accessible to young students from all backgrounds and walks of life. Using sailing as a novel, platform for learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, we are working with school systems and community programs, as well as yacht clubs and summer camps, to bring Reach to a diverse community of children. In only three years, the Reach program has far exceeded expectation for success with over 300 organizations in six countries implementing the program for nearly 20,000 young students, 50% of whom are considered at risk. In 2015, we will begin to implement a comprehensive five-year plan to open 25 Reach “hubs” serving underprivileged children in under-served communities across the country.

In collaboration with US Paralympics and the Veterans Administration, US Sailing facilitated three sailing boot camps to provide veterans with access to learn-to-sail and race programs. At the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego, US Sailing provided access to top level coaching for over 100 veterans. Both events were so successful that we plan to increase the number of clinics for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities in 2015.

During 2014 we launched a strategic planning project for the Offshore Division to build a healthy future for offshore sailing and provide a unified voice for the offshore sailing community. In conjunction with the offshore community we developed a plan that defines a number of critical success factors focusing on objective and inclusive rating services, innovative safety training, strong partnerships with national and international offshore racing organizations, and strong commitment to high quality and excellent customer service. Underlying all of these factors is the use of advanced technology and applications to make the processes easy, efficient and fun for sailors. To this end, we have partnered with a major technology company to develop and deliver these innovative applications in 2015 and beyond. Our PHRF Support Service designed to manage sailboat data and rating information for fleets.

If sailing is going to grow, it is critical for the sailing community to build a strong partnership and collaboration amongst the key players including the industry, the media, the associations, and most importantly the grassroots access points to sailing – the yacht/sailing clubs, community sailing programs and sailing schools. In 2015 US Sailing will lead the development of a grow sailing initiative to ignite a movement, create alignment within the sailing community and execute the vision we all create to get more people on the water sailing. A group of stakeholders representing all corners of the sport are meeting on February 6 in Atlanta to discuss these challenges and next-steps on a collaborative approach.

Access to Information
Yacht clubs, public sailing centers, sailing schools and the sailing industry share common concerns and goals. Regardless of their mission, each organization wants to expand participation in sailing. Developing a network of leaders and providing access to innovative and successful strategies to grow participation is a role that US Sailing is excited to assume.

The Sailing Leadership Forum, held in San Diego in February, brought 600 committed sailors and leaders together for three days of seminars, brainstorming and networking. Access to the breadth of ideas and best practices was exhilarating for attendees and motivated many to implement new ideas within their organizations. We will host the next Leadership Forum on February 4-6, 2016. I am extending an early invitation to you, and hope that you can attend because it was a truly remarkable and inspiring event. Mark your calendars!

The time and cost of attending the Forum can be prohibitive for some, so US Sailing hosts Regional Sailing Symposiums around the country to bring sailors, program directors, club officials and other interested parties together for a Leadership Forum-like experience. Brainstorming, sharing best practices and networking are essential to the health of sailing organizations at the local level as well as the national level. We plan to expand the available of Regional Sailing Symposiums in 2015. These symposiums also complement the National Sailing Program Symposium (NSPS), the premier event for sailing education in the United States. The 2015 event is right around the corner – January 21-24 in New Orleans.

The 2014 development of our new online US Sailing Resource Center provides access to US Sailing’s library of information on an enormous array of topics. We post content from symposium presentation, articles submitted by subject experts, educational textbooks and much more. We select topic areas and bring best practices and fresh ideas to members and non-members alike.

We also launched a new with a member focus, cleaner design and layout with improved navigation.

Access to Olympic Dreams
This year the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider advanced its Rio 2016 campaign by establishing a training base in Niteroi, Brazil, across Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro. The American training base is secure and complete with the space and facilities required for an Olympic team the size of ours. The base is fully outfitted with a new fleet of Olympic class boats owned by US Sailing, providing the team’s top athletes with direct access to training on the Olympic Games race courses. We aim to be the best prepared team—’Rio ready”—at Games time.

The US Sailing Team scored strong results in international competition this year, including four top ten finishes. There is a lot of work to be done over the next two years, but we are pleased with the progress the US Sailing Team is making.

I hope this summary gives you a sense of our progress, focus on our core programs and members, and commitment to increasing access to sailing. We are a resource and partner to sailing organizations and sailors alike, and are committed to  aligning the many different constituents within sailing around a shared goal, and to focus on the foundation and future of sailing. From all of us at US Sailing, thank you for your support, and we wish you a healthy and prosperous 2015, with plenty of time on the water.

Best Regards,

Jack Gierhart
Executive Director of US Sailing