Sail America keynoter: ‘change the face of our sport’

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Dawn Riley, renowned competitive sailor and executive director of Oakcliff Sailing, challenged participants at the Sail America Industry Conference to change the face of sailing during her keynote presentation "Be the Force of Change Every Day and in Every Way” on Tuesday.

The conference continued through Wednesday at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina in Charleston, S.C.

"We can no longer wring our hands, reminisce about the good old days, lament today's youth's lacking attention span or complain about unbeatable competition for people's time," Riley said in her speech. "Let's blow open the norms, take control and change the face of our sport."

Riley talked about diversity and marketing to new potential customers.

"From showrooms, to yacht clubs, to boats on the water, your advertising must include people who look like your potential customers,” Riley said, according to a Sail America statement. “We have a choice in what message we put out there ... in what we're saying."

The first woman to manage an America's Cup campaign, Riley will use the keynote as a call to action. Oakcliff Sailing, a training and coaching center based in New York, builds leaders through sailing and is seeing tremendous growth from non-traditional markets.

Riley later moderated a panel focused on emerging markets within the sailing industry, as well as how to market to women, who remain an untapped purchasing demographic. Other panel members included Margaret Podlich, of BoatUS, and Katie Pettibone, of the Rising Tide Leadership Institute.

Wednesday’s speakers included author Nick Hayes; Dean Brenner, president of the Latimer Group; and Ken Read, president of North Sails Group.

Topics included drones and aerial photography within the marine industry; how dealers and brokers and manufacturers work together to attract and keep new sailors; and how to keep youth involved in sailing.