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Strong Medicine Page 2

hat if I told you there is a way to keep post-college sailors in the game instead of letting them drift away? Of mixing generations of sailors? Stirring club spirit? Building relationships between different sailors and regions? Making the game more fun for all sorts of people? Well, I’m telling you.I have to admit I’m not talking about low-hanging fruit. It might be a no-brainer to want it

In New Orleans, at the Southern Yacht Club, where they team-race aboard Flying Scots, folks tell a similar story. SYC built itself up as a team racing power while it was rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina—no small feat. Last fall it ran the Southern Soiland Cup, for a trophy donated by their friends at Newport Harbor, with entries from three coasts.

“We wouldn’t have this going if we didn’t have the college kids leading the way and educating the rest of us,” says past commodore Corky Potts. “Team racing is the wave of the future because 15-minute races are exciting. The sailing doesn’t kill you if you have a few years on you, and the kids love it. The whole thing is invaluable.”

Flying Scots are an institution on the Gulf Coast. All the clubs own one or more, and virtually everybody has experience in them, so they were the automatic boat of choice. The Bay Waveland and Buccaneer yacht clubs each fielded teams and contributed boats to the 2009 regatta, which SYC won under the windows of its fine new clubhouse. Think 160 years of tradition on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain and plenty of forward thinking.

New England remains the epicenter of team racing in the United States. The major players all have club-owned fleets—a heavy ante, but it’s seen as an investment, not just an expense. Around the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club on Long Island Sound, a longstanding tradition of sailing against a single rival club reaches back to 1921. The original team race competition, the British-American Cup, was held aboard 6-Meters. In 2006, the club bought a fleet of used Sonars for its team-racing program.

The British-American Cup is still a big deal, and Seawanhaka uses it as a draw to recruit top talent. The contestants “set an example,” Seawanhaka’s team-racing chairman Al Constants says. “They put together a weekend and have at it with the rest of us. We learned early on that you can’t do this without practice, but when you expose people to team racing they get addicted.”

Those used Sonars, we should note, came from the New York Yacht Club as it upgraded to a new fleet. The sailors of Harbour Court are the undisputed pace-setters in this game, seeding the region with Sonars, aggressively recruiting post-collegiate sailors, and conducting team race events at all levels, including a masters competition.

Of course, there’s a flip side to supplying competitors with the boats they’re going to sail—somebody has to own and maintain them. Then you need umpire boats and umpires, not to mention a handy method of moving teams from boat to boat afloat or ashore. Still, in a sport that many people think is ailing, team racing is growing, and that’s some pretty strong medicine.

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