You don’t have to be a journalist digging deeply into the infrastructure of the world’s great yacht races and regattas to recognize the incredible metamorphosis the sport of sailing has gone through. We knew the America’s Cup and it’s switch to catamarans would have a sweeping effect on the sport and all sailors. The reality is, the organizers, and Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison, didn’t know how it would play out but knew whatever it was, it would be exciting. And it has been. If the “new” Cup has taught us anything, it is that the machine of social media and visual creativity has few bounds and sending anything into the world today requires a certain leap of faith.

Some events and articles from 2012

Some events and articles from 2012

All the major events, the Volvo which finished this year, the Vendee Globe which started this year, the ongoing Extreme Sailing series, and new events including the MOD 70 World Tour, are all trying to capitalize on the platform today’s technology offers. At the same time, all the major news outlets in the world are trying to harness the same wild horse that is contemporary media. Now we see events finding, curating and producing the stories, something the news outlets had previously done. This forces journalists to dig deeper into the events for different stories which is good and bad. Bad because in an esoteric sport, how do you explain the minutia to a general audience?

I have had the privilege of racing on a variety of boats this year and have covered some exciting events. I sailed more than 2,000 miles doublehanded in Class40s to understand the world of shorthanded sailors; I raced aboard an AC 45 in the AC World Series with my old friend Terry Hutchinson; Aboard the MOD 70 Group Edmond de Rothschild, I raced to NYC with Sebbe Joss and his outrageously talented crew and there was a lot more from classics to dinghies.

As we pore over the videos and reports we get daily from all these events, it’s easy to become excited for the sport. There is more than ever to get your sailing “fix.” But I believe the “effect” the modern racing scene has on the sport as a whole and particularly the young sailors within it, is the most important change to observe, and possibly act upon.

There is a greater pipeline than ever before for young sailors to dream about, then become a professional sailor. A concern is that the love and pleasure many middle-aged and older sailors experience with the sport may be lost to a segment of the sailing population going forward. And when the market becomes over saturated with professional events and the path from childhood to adulthood becomes intense, the fun and passion for the sport could become rare.

The sport certainly isn’t in jeopardy of extinction. No matter what people say about “saving sailing,” it will always exist as long as there is wind and water. It’s just the profile of the sport, and its size, may not be, at some points, where some people may like it.

The good thing is that sailing can be enjoyed anyway you want. And that is why the most fun I have had in the sport has been racing Beetle Cats with my children over the past two falls. The format has been simple, a group of exceptionally talented and successful sailors take their kids racing and daysailing in the offseason in simple little boats with a BBQ on the shore. If the children want to pull over and play on shore, that is given, if they want to steer, that too. It’s easy and empowering and fun. We believe we’re giving these young sailors a gift with the goal of making this a lifelong sport, not with the goal of creating little racers. That will likely come, albeit hopefully with a broader base of sailing experience and appreciation.

All the kids we sailed with in Rhode Island this fall went to see the AC World Series and knew enough to know what was going on.  They also have so much at their  fingertips now to really learn more about the sport and its diversity online with all I mentioned above. They have choice. I had to flip through stacks of Yacht Racing and Cruising magazine, my six-year-old daughter get’s to send a message to Mike Golding in the middle of the Southern Ocean.

Change is amazing, and like the sailing events I cover, we are all attempting to harness the good parts and share our experiences. My hope this year is to utilize the growing number of technological tools at our disposal to share the changing sailing experiences around the world to inspire us all to enjoy our sport, anyway we’d like.

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