Skip to main content

Efforts to broaden sailing coursed through San Francisco summit

The unofficial theme of the 12th International Sailing Summit, which took place Aug. 18-20 in San Francisco, was how to draw more women, youth and diversity to the sport.

A diverse lineup of speakers — including two female sailors, an African American keynote speaker and a young kiteboard champion — helped give about 80 attendees from around the world new ideas for pulling more people into the sport, Ronstan president and former Sail America director Scot West told Trade Only Today.

Ronstan CEO Alistair Murray told Trade Only that he liked seeing a bit of diversity at a conference for an industry that is jokingly referred to as “male, pale and stale.”

Johnny Heineken, billed at the Sail America-produced event as the No. 1-ranked kiteboarder, the 2013 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and “twenty-something,” said a large part of attracting new sailors was getting people onto the water in any way possible, whether on a sailboat, a kiteboard or an open dinghy, and the rest will take care of itself, West said.

“A big part of engaging youth was doing it in a less-structured way — less racing, and way more of kids having fun on boats, and getting families involved, and engaging with women,” Murray said. “Traditionally there have been a lot more males than females in sailing, but right now there is more interest in sailing from women than men in terms of Google searches and inquiries to sailing schools.”

“The unplanned theme of the conference was women,” West added, “youth, women and diversity.”

“We hope people left with pearls of wisdom and will go home and think differently about how they are going to be relevant,” Murray said.

“We just want to make sailing accessible,” West said. “There was some debate about how easy or hard it is to go sailing. We had some sailing schools there who thought it was easy, and others saying, ‘It’s not as easy as you think.’ ”

Among the speakers at the conference were Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (“Tailwinds and Headwinds in the Future of Boating”), and Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media, the parent company of Trade Only (“Growing the Sport of Sailing — Lessons Learned”).

The summit, held in conjunction with the America’s Cup World Series, featured the Red Bull youth teams racing outside the conference hall windows, Murray said — a “good distraction.”

“The summit is all about getting the leaders together to share ideas about boating participation, and more than anything it’s about getting people together to network, get to know each other and endorse the market,” Murray said. “There were a lot of real legends of the sport involved, so it was a great event.”

— Reagan Haynes


A ‘Glorious Day in Beautiful Fort Lauderdale’

The docks were packed as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show opened yesterday, with numerous builders introducing new models.

Communicate With Your Suppliers

With three months until the winter shows and inventory shortages continuing, confirm with builders what boats may arrive in time for display. Also, stand out by creating some sizzle in your exhibit.

Leadership Summit 2021

On September 27th, 2021, Soundings Trade Only hosted a Leadership Summit led by business executive and Chairman of Thinkshift, Dr. Balaji Krishnamurthy.

Retail in Times of Consolidation

Our monthly Pulse Report survey asks dealers if mergers and acquisitions have affected any of the brands they carry. Take the survey here.

Rollick Expands Leadership Team

The marketing and technology company named a chief financial officer and head of dealer solutions.

Vision Marine Moves Toward Mass Production

The company partnered with McLaren Engineering to manufacture its E-Motion 180E electric outboard and powertrain system.

Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Opens Today

The show runs through Oct. 31, and organizers are hoping for a return to pre-Covid success.

Non-profit Takes Aim at Access

Families for Boating works with community advocacy groups to help curb regulatory threats to on-water activities.