Monday, September 21, 2015

Reflections from the President - Soaking Wet

by Tom Hubbell

I’m actually a fan of formal dining. My parents were pretty formal and although we lived on an engineer and a social worker’s income, they routinely enjoyed formal meals at home or occasionally in restaurants. But with a few fantastic exceptions, a club that focuses on white tablecloth dining rooms is missing the ingredients it takes to have a vibrant sailing hub.

I submit that the single best indicator of a vibrant sailing institution is whether it is normal to see a soaking wet 12-year-old in a life jacket gadding about in the common areas of the club - not the junior sailing hut, but the club’s primary facility. 

I have enjoyed sailing and visiting many clubs and community sailing centers each year all over the country in my 14 years of involvement with the US Sailing Board of Directors. When junior sailing is active and welcome within the ‘adult’ spaces it is much more likely to become a multigenerational club. When kids are in this space there is a level of excitement that is contagious. Junior sailing encourages more training programs offered by these organizations. Clubs that discover the value of training for all ages and skill levels, including race management and safety, quickly see increased participation across the board.

If you can’t wait for the kids to grow up and populate your club, then you’ll want to recruit young adults and former collegiate sailors looking for new opportunities. I don’t hear them clamoring for white tablecloth dining either. I believe they are looking for a welcoming place, lower membership costs, access to club-owned boats, reasonably priced burgers and beer, and a shower.

And while solo boats and couples boats are fun, it may be that three-person one-designs and three or four-person boats in PHRF fleets are a necessary backbone for sustainability. There must be a reason that Thistles, Flying Scots, Lightnings, J/22s and J/24s are practically everywhere and I suspect the reason is the social glue for which they are famous. They are inviting to mixed-gender, multigenerational teams. They offer local, regional, and national levels of competition.

Out of necessity, community sailing centers have been getting this right and, guess what, they are booming. Informal, inexpensive, welcoming, focused on training and fun – those are the buzz words for growth. You can still have a nice dining room upstairs as long as it doesn’t compromise having young sailors having the run of the place.

Tom Hubbell

President of US Sailing

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

US Sailing’s Reach – A Youth Experience in South Carolina

In May of 2015, seven teachers and 27 sixth grade students from the Reach Club at the Creek Bridge Middle School in Marion, South Carolina made the two-and-a-half hour drive from their landlocked community to Charleston, one of the most popular sailing destinations in the country.

Wayne Burdick, President of Beneteau, Inc., spent the last year and a half collaborating with US Sailing and the Marion County School District to engage area youth in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) through the sport of sailing.

Fifty students learned STEM through the US Sailing Reach initiative over the past four months. This experience featured a field trip to the Beneteau Group factory in Marion, where students learned how sailboats are designed and built. At the successful conclusion of the student’s Reach studies, they went to the College of Charleston to sail with the school’s nationally recognized sailing team. Only two of the students had ever been on the water prior to this experience.

“There are few times in my career that have been more gratifying in the ‘big picture’ of life than the day spent seeing the Reach students sail on a beautiful day at the College of Charleston Sailing Center,” said Burdick. “Thanks to the support of our Marion team, where beautiful Jeanneau and Beneteau sailboats are built each day, and thanks to some of the finest collegiate sailors acting as skipper and superior role models for the kids, the event was a wonderful culmination for the introduction of this US Sailing program to an inland school.”

Beneteau Group has partnered with the Marion schools for the upcoming school year and will be implementing Reach in sixth and seventh grade classrooms at the Creek Bridge School.

The implementation of the Reach program in Marion serves as a great example and a blueprint for other schools to follow. By partnering with sailing programs, organizations, and businesses in the industry, schools can learn how to introduce more youth to STEM education and sailing.

“We hope to expand upon this initiative of using sailing as a basis for catalyzing middle school students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Burdick.

Thanks to the Beneteau Group, which includes the Jeanneau America, Beneteau America and the BGM America factory in Marion, the students at Creek Bridge Middle School have seen a world outside of their small South Carolina town. US Sailing’s Reach initiative gives the students an opportunity to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math while getting out on the water.
And as Burdick says, “There is nothing more important than that.”

“We thank the team at Beneteau Group for the time and dedication they put into this project, as well as Nathan Indergaard and the school’s leadership and staff at Creek Bridge Middle School,” said Servis.

“They tried something new, learned about sailing, and used their creativity for a unique learning opportunity for their students. We would also like to recognize the College of Charleston Sailing Team and the leadership of Coach Greg Fisher. Thank you for taking the time and effort to introduce these individuals to the great sport of sailing.”

Learn more about US Sailing's Reach.