Over the past ten months, US Sailing has looked at where we’ve been and where we’re going – from sailing gear and technology to sailing in the Olympics. Now, as we celebrate US Sailing’s 125th birthday on October 30th, we’d like to share where some members of our community think the sport is going, looking ahead to the next 125 years.
Preston Anderson, former college sailor and founding member of TIDE, college sailing’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative, imagines diverse sailors will continue breaking barriers – inspiring new would-be sailors.
“I think we had a lot of significant barriers broken within our sport in the last five to ten years, and over the next decade or so, we’ll see more barriers being broken and our sport becoming more inclusive,” said Anderson. “That’s going to be what drives our sport to live on for the next 125 years.”
One example Anderson points to is Mise en Place, a predominantly African American and female sailing team that has competed in a number of Mac races, bucking the trend of white, male teams.
Anderson sees the sport on the precipice of an inclusion movement that will make the sport more hospitable to underrepresented groups.
“The US Sailing community has done a good job over the last couple of years, finding ways to reach out to new groups,” he explained. “So now we have to actually do the work of inviting them in and getting them sailing.”
What are some actions the sailing community can take? Anderson recalls US Sailing’s Starboard Portal discussion where Karin Harris, past commodore of Jackson Park Yacht Club, suggests yacht clubs and sailing organizations reach out to local Black professional organizations – lawyer’s groups and the like – to see if they would be interested in using yacht club space or trying out the sport.
Others see the results of current mentorship and “affirmative action” programs playing out across the sport, especially in the effort to get women involved.
“There’s a lot of amazing initiatives being put in place right now to get more women access to high-level racing which previously didn’t exist, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing more women in the highest level of the sport and offshore racing,” said Rhode Island native Erica Lush, an experienced offshore sailor and skipper on the Maiden Factor.
Lush was a mentee in the Magenta Project, a UK-based non-profit which helps women advance their sailing by pairing rising talent with legends in the sailing industry to support their developing careers. Through the mentorship program, Lush was able to refine and reevaluate her sailing goals – leading her to a position with Canada Ocean Racing’s IMOCA team.
“I think that there’s more teams out there saying, ‘Yeah, we would take a woman if they’re qualified,’ and with the affirmative action initiatives giving them those opportunities for experience, I’m hopeful that there will be more women brought on to teams of their own merit in the future,” she noted.
In the competition space, US Sailing’s Youth Competitions Manager John Pearce sees new events and classes coming on the scene to compliment events that have stood the test of time.
“Certain disciplines, on the racing side, will be around for the near future,” said Pearce. “For example, the Sears Cup – US Sailing’s Junior Triplehanded Championship – just finished its 101st year with pretty much the same format and the same purpose over more than a century.”
Pearce has been working with youth sailing committees to develop US Sailing’s Youth Performance Pathway, a roadmap for parents and kids navigating today’s youth sailing landscape. While the pathway focuses on high performance (with an Olympic end goal), it includes traditional club and one design racing as good cross-training – and a destination for kids who may decide the Olympics is not their goal.
Timeless formats, such as singlehanded and doublehanded dinghy racing, will remain strong even as the sport evolves, Pearce explained. “Newer things like windsurfing, kiting and winging will be on the scene, but it will likely be in formats similar to club racing we see now,” he said.
How do we keep youth invested in sailing while honoring tradition and embracing new innovations?
“In the medium term, the biggest growth opportunity is in board sports,” Pearce explained. “Windsurfing, winging, and kiting are cheaper, faster, more modern, and easier to store and transport. That will be attractive to people who want the simplest, coolest, and most cost-effective solution. Thats why I want my kids to be windsurfers!”
To teach these newer forms of sailing, clubs like Bristol Yacht Club in Rhode Island are buying fleets of foiling boats and offering foiling clinics, as well as running racing for local winging enthusiasts.
“It all comes down to the local level – what’s going on at the clubs, and regional associations,” Pearce remarked. “From a racing standpoint, the fact that community sailing centers are enmeshed with local racing in most places is great because it means more people in general racing together. You hear of far more community sailing centers being founded than yacht clubs these days.”
What do YOU think the future of sailing looks like? Let us know by commenting, or send a response to email@example.com.