Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reflections from the President - Year 69 of the Thistle

By Tom Hubbell, President of US Sailing
The Thistle Nationals and the Thistle Class in general give us a test case. What is the formula for success? One challenge: the National Championship always involves some waiting. We visited as we drifted among the flying Frisbee, the passing handball, and opportunities to see centerboards clearly in the azure blue water of Lake Michigan.

Lake temperature at a record low prevented taking a dip. It took great patience by the PRO and the sailors to hold out for decent conditions each day, and all the scheduled races were completed. Mother Nature first gave us the lake full of big lumps and less than big wind. The seven foot waves with only 12-14 mph wind provided great surfing and a truly moving experience, too moving for some. One race was enough.

The next three days provided a thermal opposing the weather system, in other words, waiting. One day was a bust, but for two days this battle was finally settled with real races in a thermal. On the fifth and final day, we got a weather system aligned with the thermal resulting in great sailing. Local knowledge proved a fickle companion and the high scores prove the difficulty. The folks of Sail Sheboygan US Sailing Center (WI) gave us their best effort from their spectacular venue.

Sailing the major event had many positive endpoints. We renewed friendships and welcomed newer people, some who grew up in Thistles and returned decades later. We shared the secrets of our sailing success and collectively analyzed races afterwards. Chris Wilson’s team won the Junior Nationals for the third time. Ninety percent of the boats had at least one woman on board. A trio of female cousins sailing the boat “Your Mom” displayed a daily tribute to a woman sailor they knew. The class voted to allow VHF radios for RC communication. The Lavender family won the second division. Class veteran Lloyd Kitchin with his son Brian and daughter-in-law Catia won the regatta. 

Nationals seems like just a big love-fest about the boat and the people. This social experiment succeeds.  The boat evolves to remain vibrant and the sailors become extended families engaged in the game and the fleet for generations. We go to great venues and we enjoy the whole experience. Thistles have a formula for sustaining and growing the sport: socially connected people sailing a good boat at well-run events.

I hope to see you on the water and in Milwaukee for the National Conference this fall.

Tom Hubbell

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