US Sailing Highlights 2016 Initiatives and Looks Ahead to a Promising 2017

December 30, 2016


Dear Sailors,

From all of us at US Sailing, we hope that you and your family are having a wonderful holiday season and that you have had opportunities to remain active in your respective sailing communities in 2016.

We are finishing up a productive year, and want to take a moment to thank you for your ongoing support and commitment that has enabled us to make progress on our key initiatives for 2016. I can assure you that US Sailing remains committed to better serving all types of sailors at every level in 2017 and beyond. We are excited about the prospects of 2017 as it promises to be another engaging year with great events, new programs and initiatives, and a refined focus on our part to serve and support you, our members, and the sport.

Sailing is evolving and at US Sailing we are dedicated to a healthy and sustainable future that inspires new sailors and provides a pathway to a lifetime of sailing that is carried on to future generations. To thrive, sailing must grow participation in all areas and at all levels, while upholding the highest standards of excellence and fairness. At US Sailing, we are working on programs and services that align the sailing community and drive innovation within three key areas: access to sailing, training and education and competitive excellence. We also understand that local sailing organizations – yacht clubs, community sailing programs, sailing schools, class and owner associations, event organizers, etc. – are the foundation for the sport and central for the future, and the work we do must meet their evolving needs.  We are optimizing our organizational structure, operations and resources to improve communications and provide a responsive and efficient support system for the local sailing organizations.

Please take a few minutes to review our 2016 highlights that outline a number of our significant ongoing initiatives.


First Sail

There is an ongoing need to grow participation in sailing – all types of sailing. Currently the on ramp to sailing, for those looking to get involved for the first time, is not clear or easy. To address this challenge, in 2016, after over a year of working with a range of stakeholders in the sailing community, US Sailing launched First Sail, a nationwide, grass roots initiative to educate the public on the benefits of sailing as a fun and exciting recreational activity and sport for people of all ages and abilities and connect them with opportunities to get involved. First Sail offers a pathway to participation through resources on finding a place to learn and how to get started. Check out for more information.

Youth Sailing

US Sailing identified the need for a comprehensive youth sailing strategy that supports local sailing organizations and other key stakeholders and encourages the development of young sailors who advance their skills and capabilities to embed a lifelong love for the sport, and achieve competitive success internationally. We developed a framework, outlined a set of goals, strategies and measurements to enable US Sailing to launch an effective youth sailing strategy that builds on the strengths of existing programs like the Small Boat program, USA Junior Olympic Sailing Festival and U.S. Junior Championships. The hiring of John Pearce as the organization’s youth sailing director was one of the first steps we took to initiate this new strategy. John is working with key stakeholders in youth sailing from around the country to develop highly skilled young sailors by providing multiple pathways with innovative and world-class programs and services, instruction and coaching.


The US Sailing Reach program makes sailing accessible to young students from all backgrounds and walks of life. Using sailing as a 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. Reach programming was on display at several sailing events around the country in 2016. In only five years, the Reach program has far exceeded expectations for success. Check out the 2016 Reach Impact Report for details on participation and progress. In 2017 we will continue implementing a comprehensive plan to open Reach “hubs” serving underprivileged children in under-served communities across the country.


National Faculty

One of the pillars of US Sailing continues to be our educational offerings. In 2016, over 2,000 people went through our instructional courses, with many more being impacted by the training. To support people’s aspiration for more education, we continue to develop products and programs that help support a wide array of interests. To accomplish that, US Sailing is fortunate to have a group of subject matter experts, known as the National Faculty, who come together from the various departments to serve as a “think tank” to exchange new ideas and best practices. In 2016, the National Faculty met in St. Petersburg, Florida and spent three days improving and creating our offerings. We are grateful for their passion and service. Thank you for sharing this valued knowledge.

Sailing Leadership Forum

Over 550 leaders throughout the country participated in Sailing Leadership Forum 2016 in February at the Hilton San Diego Resort. These enthusiastic participants came to Southern California with a wealth of positive energy that was inspiring for everyone. The attendees, presenters and contributors created an atmosphere conducive to learning, sharing and having fun. The attendees’ motivation to connect, discover and grow made this special event a reality. We hope to see you at the National Sailing Program Symposium (NSPS) this February in Austin, Texas, where many of you will continue these important conversations.

Online Learning

US Sailing has put an emphasis on evolving the accessibility of our education offerings and making them more available in a digital platform. We are prepared to be at the forefront of online learning.

Developed in partnership with Fresh Air Educators, US Sailing announced the launch of Basic Keelboat Online, a web-based supplement to the Basic Keelboat course. The online course is designed to prepare aspiring sailors for on-the-water instruction in the Basic Keelboat course while allowing US Sailing instructors to ensure a consistent level of knowledge for incoming students.

In 2017 we are launching a complete online Safety at Sea Seminar curriculum that provides a standalone platform for safety education appropriate for all sailors, and complements the intensive hands on seminars for offshore sailors.

Competitive Excellence

US Sailing Team

All of our outstanding US Sailing Team athletes representing Team USA at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games and other events around the world made us proud. The Olympic program achieved podium results in a broad spectrum of international events throughout the year, highlighted by Finn sailor Caleb Paine’s Olympic bronze medal and a Paralympic silver medal for the Sonar team comprised of Rick Doerr, Hugh Freund and Brad Kendell.

These positive results are the culmination of countless hours of training and preparation and a key element to this success was the establishment of an extensive training operation at the Rio 2016 sailing venue beginning in 2013, which provided the resources necessary for American athletes to dedicate an unprecedented amount of training time on Games racecourses prior to the Games in Brazil.

Olympic Development Program

US Sailing’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) continues to develop rising young talent and create sustainable success in American high-performance sailing. This was evident at the recent 2016 Youth Sailing World Championship. US Sailing’s 13-member Youth Worlds Team secured three medals at the world’s premier youth regatta, including gold in the boys 420, silver in the Nacra 15 open multihull, and bronze in the boys Laser Radial. The team’s performance in Auckland is the first three-medal performance for the United States since 2011. The team was selected based on the results from the 2016 U.S. Youth Sailing Championships, organized by US Sailing and hosted by the Coronado Yacht Club in August.

We have bright prospects for Tokyo 2020, and we believe there is a proven system in place to develop the next generation of Olympic sailors.

US Sailing and SAP

An important initiative for US Sailing is to expand access to offshore racing and focus on developing new strategies that increase participation. It is our goal to provide data and analytics to competitive sailors to help them better prepare and perform during races.

US Sailing and SAP, market leader in enterprise application software, announced a multi-year partnership that designates SAP as the “Official Technology Partner and Cloud Solutions Provider” of US Sailing. The initial phase of the partnership focused on increasing access to offshore racing in the U.S. by simplifying the process for boat owners to get on the starting line. The user-friendly Universal Certification System (UCS) platform drastically lowers the hurdles for new racers to get involved and, through SAP technology, we are now able to streamline the process and empower sailors and boat owners to make better decisions about their boats.

We worked closely with SAP on the creation of a live-tracking and analytics mobile app, SAP Sail InSight, that provides sailors and teams with valuable data for post-race analysis. SAP Sail InSight, available for iPhone, iPad and Android phones, uses a connection to the SAP Sailing Analytics solution and allows sailboat racers to manage their regatta participation and performance anywhere and anytime, providing sailors and teams with valuable information for post-race analysis.

SAP Sail InSight is being beta-tested by US Sailing and SAP at select racing events. We will be releasing more details about product developments, updates and availability in 2017.

Racing Rules

In the fall we rolled out The Racing Rules of Sailing for 2017-2020, as well as Dave Perry’s Understanding the Racing Rules and the Sailor’s Guide to the Racing Rules, as well as a variety of supporting products, such as a special waterproof edition and mobile-friendly digital publications. Our tremendously committed volunteers made it a priority to ensure we provided the resources necessary for racing sailors to understand new rules and changes to existing rules as they venture onto the race course in 2017.


In closing, we thank you again for your ongoing commitment and generous contributions to US Sailing and our sport – as members, as donors, as volunteers, as parents and as participants. We wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017, and hope you enjoy plenty of time on the water with family and friends in the New Year.

Warm Regards,

Jack Gierhart
Executive Director of US Sailing