A record 275 participants, representing sailing programs and institutions from across the country, attended the 28th US Sailing National Sailing Programs Symposium, which concluded Sunday.
"This number took us all by surprise," symposium agenda coordinator Deb Sullivan Gravelle said. "This more than doubles last year's turnout and one-third of the attendees are first-timers. But we also got 100-plus people we did not expect."
Although the rough Northeast winter and the choice of Clearwater Beach, Fla., as the venue might have played a part in the resurgence, participants also found interesting and relevant topics on the agenda of the Jan. 26-30 event. It was built around the theme of environmental awareness and sustainability.
The subjects included yoga, group dynamics, race management, boating safety, rescuing hypothermic victims, teaching disabled sailors, engine maintenance, gelcoat and fiberglass repair, sail care and environmental lessons, as well as social media, fundraising and accounting.
General-session speakers included Dawn Riley on improving competitiveness; Larry Johnson on mastering change; Kara Lavender Law on oceanic garbage patches; Rachel Zoe Miller on harbor cleanups; and Soundings' sailing editor Dieter Loibner, on the basics of sustainable sailing. Attendees also participated in games, tested boats, windsurfing and paddleboarding equipment and demonstrated powerboat handling skills at the adjacent Clearwater Sailing Center.
"These groups and community sailing centers are growing sailing on a local level," said Jack Gierhart, US Sailing's executive director. "By bringing [these groups] together, US Sailing helps them share knowledge and best practices that can be programatized."
Laura Trubull, chairwoman of the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island, participated in the event for the second time.
"I see it as an information exchange," she said. "I take back new ideas and pass them on to our affiliated youth sailing programs."
Clearwater marked the 14th time that Bryce Griffith of Tahoe Community Sailing in Homewood, Calif., has attended the symposium.
"It's a great opportunity to network with other professionals," Griffiths said. "The number of participants has grown significantly, but also the quality of the speakers and the variety of topics have made great strides."