Misconceptions of the Sailing Community
At every conference and any get together with people from the sailing community, the topic always comes back to the decline of sailing in the US. There is always discussion of how we can get kids to stay sailing and bring in new people to sailing. We talk about how people view sailing as difficult, expensive, and exclusive. As someone who didn't grow up sailing, these were viewpoints I once held. Once we purchased WindRider and started talking to people about sailing, I quickly came to realize that, while it can be all those things, it doesn't have to be. Boats can be cheap, sailing is actually quite inclusive and above all, anyone can do it.
Unfortunately, it is the public perception that matters, rather than the truth. The key to it is getting more people onto a sailboat and letting them experience it for themselves. Because it is only through these experiences that we can change people's views of sailing. Unfortunately, the conversation seems to always fall back to what we as an industry can do. How we can personally invite people out when we go sailing, or doing things in our communities to sponsor sailing events. While these are things that can help, I don't believe that our industry alone can do much to change the current decline. We need help of everyone that owns a boat, that enjoys a day under wind power, that has felt the calming effects of cruising along with no other noise than waves lapping against the hull, to help change the mindset of people that aren't sailors and don't think they could be sailors.
Why does it matter? Well, besides my own self interest(owning a sailboat company), I think that sailing provides a lot of benefit to the community. Sailors tend to be more respectful and cognizant on the water, have a higher environmental awareness, and an overall stronger sense of community.
So my challenge to myself and everyone else is this: talk to people about sailing and invite them to participate.
I am interested in hearing from people who are involved in community sailing programs or teaching to get your opinion on what is needed to help build the sailing community. Is it financial resources? More opportunities for kids outside of racing? Better reach into the community?
Thanks to Boating Cartoons for their humorous takes on sailors.