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‘Hard, crazy, fun’ job selling vacations filled his sails

How did I get here?
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How did I get here?

west0804

Summer 1993, brutal economy. I am in my early 20s. Life was good, but I hated my job. I won’t say specifically what I was doing, but it is still the job I refer back to on bad days and think, “at least I’m not doing that!”

Meanwhile, my father, a marine industry lifer, was selling ads for Cruising World and Sailing World magazines, and I started asking him to help me get a better job. After a while, he pointed me to a guy named Hugh Murray at Sunsail.

Hugh proved elusive at first, but he ultimately relented and said, “If you want to come down to Fort Lauderdale (I was living in Rhode Island at the time) I’ll give you a three-month trial in the marketing department. If it works, great; if not, no problem, we both move on.”

It was very casual, but I had little to lose.

Working at Sunsail was exciting, hard, crazy, fun and very different from any previous experience I had. We had a small team and worked very collaboratively, with everyone throwing ideas at different departments, people, etc.

We were selling sailing and selling vacations in the best locations in the world, and we all loved the product. The business grew consistently during my time there, which in hindsight may have had a lot to do with the economy as the ’90s marched on, but still success led to growth, change and more success. Part of that change involved moving the operation from Fort Lauderdale to Annapolis, Md.

One of my favorite stories is that during my first week at Sunsail I heard about this awesome boat show in Atlantic City called Sail Expo. It was only in its second year at the time. I recall wanting to go so badly, I told my boss that if he could get me there I could crash on the couch in my father’s hotel room — I was that fired up! The funny follow-up was that nine years later, my father needed a place to crash during the show, so he came and slept on the couch in my hotel room!

After eight years at Sunsail, I transitioned to be executive director at Sail America — another different, fun and challenging experience. Working for the industry association really expanded my horizons and introduced me to so many of the great people working in the sailing industry.

Most recently (OK, for the last 10 years) I have been heading up Ronstan’s North American operation. This is another role quite different from my previous two — filled with challenges and great opportunities to think creatively. I work with an incredible team at Ronstan, and although I hate to admit it, I’m sort of the old guy now.

Thinking about how I got into the sailing industry inspired me to reflect on the many outstanding people I have worked with along the way. Although a complete list would be too long, there are a few who taught me a lot, including Jock West, Hugh Murray, Ed Massey, John Peterson, Thom Dammrich and Alistair Murray.

Certainly, the consistent theme for me over the past 20 years has been sailing. Like many in our industry, I grew up on the water, around boats, and truly value the opportunity to make a living involved with such a rewarding pastime.

Scot West is the president of Ronstan North America, which is based in Portsmouth, R.I. Ronstan is an Australian sailboat hardware manufacturer that has factories in Australia and Denmark and distribution around the world.

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