View from the Helm

If you’ve paid attention at all, you know that US Sailing is restructuring. The national governing body of the sport (encouraged by the International Olympic Committee) has been reorganized so that the new Board of Directors is much smaller than the old and, in theory, will be more effective. US Sailing President Janet Baxter describes it as, “A a very big deal to those of us going through it, but most of the sailors in America will never notice. The primary work is still the same, and US Sailing programs are the same.”

The new-look US Sailing recently wrapped up its Spring Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, so the editors of SAIL invited Janet Baxter to offer a few words from the helm. At a conceptual level, she said, the new board is transformed from a constituent-based body with 49 members to being knowledge-and-experienced-based, with each of the 14 members now representing voices across disciplines.

We’re going to give Janet Baxter the floor. Here’s what she had to say—

“We know that with a smaller Board of Directors, along with efficiencies, we incur the risk that its members may not know what’s going on in every corner of the sport. So we’ve created a backup group called the House of Delegates [consultants to the Board, if you will] to preserve that constituent-based view. The House of Delegates was born over the weekend of March 18-19, and there were 43 people at that table; they’re still inventing themselves.”

“Last year, frankly, there was squabbling. Somebody didn’t like this, or somebody didn’t like that. As of the Spring Meeting we seem to have moved beyond that. We lost a few people, but others, whether they got everything they wanted or not, decided to roll up their sleeves and say, OK, let’s get on with it. It seemed to me there was a new excitement, higher energy, more laughter.

“Our new executive director, Charlie Leighton, is a strong businessman with good fundraising skills and good contacts. He has the staff energized, including some new hires, and we’re coming back around to where we can challenge ourselves with questions about what we’re really doing for our members, and what we ought to be doing, and how to bring in new members from the many people who race sailboats in this country without being part of US Sailing except perhaps for buying a rule book.

“Looking at just a few particulars:

“You should already know that we are now providing certificates for all the offshore rules, IRC, ORR for example. Those groups are doing their own promoting. We have the technical expertise to deal with certificates, but we’re not trying to choose between rules. We’ll let the marketplace decide.

“We’re doing things like asking ourselves why it takes so many days to train an instructor, and we’re looking into better methods. Could we, instead of having one long training session, work with high schools and colleges so that the book learning is done over time, and then it’s all pulled together with a short, effective, on-the-water session? We want to find out.

“We’ve invited coaches and instructors to form their own group. It’s the first time we’ve invited professionals to get together and talk under the roof of US Sailing.

“And of course we continue to be challenged by our finances. US Sailing has a break-even budget and plenty of unfunded aspirations. Among nonprofits, however, that places us in pretty good company.”

Thank you, President Baxter. There is plenty more about US Sailing at

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