Sailing industry ‘alive, but not unscathed’

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On the first day of Sail America's 2010 Sailing Industry Conference, 140 attendees heard about the industry's troubles during the recession and its attempt at a comeback.

Layered between Dean Brenner's opening remarks at St. Johns College in Annapolis, Md., about leadership communication and Gary Jobson's suggestions at the end of the day to make sailing essential again (which included a lighthearted recap of the America's Cup since 1980), attendees could choose from several panels and sessions to discuss social networks, trends in retail and commercial banking customer behavior and marine financing.

The consensus among the speakers was that much has changed in two years since the first conference in 2008.

"Then it was a marine industry conference," said speaker Dean Brenner, chairman of the U.S. Olympic sailing program and president of The Latimer Group, who attended both events.

"This year it is a business conference," said Bob Bitchin, publisher of Latitudes and Attitudes magazine. "The timing is good and the content is good, because it is addressing people who run a business."

Bitchin, who is on the board of Sail America, is tasked with helping the organization develop individual membership. For first-time attendee Greg Eck, sales manager at Yanmar America Corporation, the conference was proof that the industry is alive and well, but not unscathed as it emerges from the recession.

"The bomb went off, now everybody is digging out from the pile of rubble," he said.

The conference continues today with more speakers and breakout sessions, including one on sustainability moderated by Soundings sailing editor Dieter Loibner and one on the future of selling by marketing consultant Don Cooper.

- Dieter Loibner

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